So both houses of Indian Parliament have now passed the 124th Constitutional Amendment Bill, clearing the decks for 10% reservation to Economically Weaker Sections on top of the existing 50% quota.
While the Congress did “support” the Bill, you wouldn’t think that was the case from the manner in which they behaved over the last two days. They fought and argued and quibbled over every possible little detail.
The lowest point was when the Congress (along with many other opposition parties) protested against the extension of the Rajya Sabha session in order to debate and vote on the all-important Constitutional Amendment Bill.
Now, this can only be seen as an insult to Mahatma Gandhi and the people of India. We have here representatives of the people protesting because they have been asked to work for ONE extra day! That too, members of the Rajya Sabha!
Presumably, the Congress realized soon enough that it would be hard to get the public to feel bad for poor Rajya Sabha MPs having to work for one extra day! And that Rajya Sabha wasn’t going to be adjourned without debate and voting on the bill. So they finally came back into the house, where they kicked and screamed till the very last moment.
From the conduct of the Congress on the floor of the House yesterday, you would never guess that PM Narendra Modi was merely fulfilling a promise/demand that the Congress had been making for years now. Please take a look at this, right below the “detailed action plan” proposed by Congress in its manifesto for the 2014 General Election.
There you have it:
“The Indian National Congress is committed to finding a way forward for introducing reservation in education and employment for economically weaker sections of all communities without in any way affecting existing reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.”
As clear as could be. Yet, we did not see very much of this “commitment” on the floor of the House yesterday.
The interesting thing is that the exact same promise appears in the manifesto of the Congress Party for the 2009 General Elections as well. Here it is:
The exact same promise in almost the exact same language! The issue of providing quota benefits to economically weaker sections must have been very close to the heart of Madam Sonia Gandhi, don’t you think?
Now, this raises all manner of interesting questions. The first is why the Congress played such a negative role yesterday when Narendra Modi actually moved ahead and did something the Congress itself had been trying to do for at least 10 years now.
Another question that must be asked is why members of the liberal intellectual ecosystem, who double up as unofficial Congress spokespersons on mainstream and social media, had no problem with the idea back when Congress proposed it? For the last two days, these people have been whining openly about the concept of reservation for Economically Weaker Sections. Some have gone to the extent of saying that it undermines the spirit of the Constitution. But why did these people not express such fears when Congress Party included this in its manifesto? Did they say at the time in 2009 and 2014 that the Congress Party under Sonia and Rahul Gandhi might be trying to undermine the Constitution of India?
But the biggest question is why the Congress itself did nothing about this promise after it won the General Elections in 2009. This was a manifesto promise, made in writing, wasn’t it?
Was it supposed to be just another of the Congress promises that are meant to merely string people along, preferably for decades? Something on the lines of Gareebi Hatao, made in 1971. A promise that was supposed to remain permanently in future, for the purpose of harvesting votes in the present?
Recently, we have seen the Congress ecosystem, overtly or covertly, put its hand into the cookie jar of all sorts of reservation lollipops for all sorts of people. Be it in Gujarat with Patidar agitation or in Haryana with Maratha agitation. The Congress ecosystem and the various quota agitation leaders knew full well that nothing could really be done about the 50% cap unless the Constitution is amended.
And so PM Modi did go ahead and amend the Constitution. Why all the complaints now? It has now become clear that these movements had the sole objective of harassing BJP governments in various states and little more.
Economic backwardness can exist within every community. And thus, the BJP government has actually gone ahead and done something concrete that will help deserving people from every community. The only losers here are those who were planning to slowly milk this issue by keeping it going for decades. Hence the heartburn.