10% Quota for EWS: Modi Govt’s Masterstroke, or Desperate Move?

10% Quota for EWS: Modi Govt’s Masterstroke, or Desperate Move?

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Video Editors: Vishal Kumar & Purnendu Pritam

Just months away from the 2019 elections, the government has made a move to provide reservation to people of economically weaker upper castes in government jobs, which many will consider a big step. Some will call it a political masterstroke ahead of the elections. Others will refer to it as a move of desperation.

Both points can be correct. But we have circumstantial evidence in front of us. The evidence is that the results of the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat have made it quite clear that the BJP's popularity has dropped in rural areas.

Underprivileged Distancing Themselves From BJP

These results prove that despite BJP's attempts, the underprivileged are still distancing themselves. And while the Dalits, poor and rural voters are not supporting the BJP, through this move, it is advisable for them to consolidate their base of upper-caste voters who are miffed with the party.

Is It a Political Move?

Another comment is: Look at the timing. The timing proves it's a political move. I don't have an issue with this because all political parties that contest the elections will use any political tool at their disposal to win, because that is their job.

All parties do this.

What’s the Real Problem?

The main problem is bigger. A step like this, right before the elections, could completely drive away Dalits, tribals and EBCs from the BJP. You might think this move will ensure the consolidation of the upper-caste votes, but will that be enough to ensure victory?

A No-Gain-No-Loss Deal

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Another point of view is that, at least on the electoral level, this move can turn out to be a neutral, no-gain-no-loss step. Why? Because this Bill, which is a constitutional amendment Bill, will be introduced in the Parliament and it must pass the floor test.

The session now needs to be extended or else a Special Session will be called. Then, the Rajya Sabha also has to approve it where the NDA doesn’t enjoy a majority. Hence, it’s quite possible that the Bill won’t be passed before the elections. Then, BJP will peddle this narrative:

‘Look, we tried to pass the Bill and we intend to do it. Now, you make sure we win with a wide margin so that we get a majority in the Rajya Sabha. This will help us make constitutional amendments.’

Indira Sawhney Case

Since it was an executive order and unconstitutional, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the popular Indira Sawhney case pronounced that the reservation on economic criteria cannot be implemented.

Now, the present government is being cautious by trying to amend the Constitution because then, the Supreme Court could only review it and not completely strike it down. But the same Supreme Court order mentioned a very important thing, which was:

‘Whether a citizen of India is backward or not can’t be determined purely on economic grounds.’

Second, if the dispute is, which community can be included or excluded (based on reservation) then the Supreme Court is the only forum where such a decision can be made. So, if this complex law is enforced by this government, then it's quite possible that it will be challenged in the Supreme Court and the outcome might change the law.

But at present, who cares about that? The major concern right now is what can be done to win the 2019 elections. And this step can lead to victory. I am repeatedly using the phrase ‘desperate move’ and I want to make it clear that if any ruling party, especially the NDA government, speaks strongly on any issue, their insecurity on it is equally strong.

This sudden move of reservation for upper castes makes you wonder, why are they doing it? It’s because the Dalits have distanced themselves from BJP.

So now you know exactly to what lengths they are willing to go.

All their plans of reaching out to the Dalits have failed. This worries them. Since they are unclear about whether they will secure the Dalit votes, they want to consolidate the core vote bank of the upper castes. Additionally, these central communities like Marathas, Patels, Gujjars and Jats who were demanding reservation can also be accommodated in this Bill.

Now, it's being claimed that poverty is the criteria for this move.

  • Annual income less than Rs 8 lakh
  • own land less than five acres

These points don't matter much. In reality, more than three-fourths of India's rural population has a household income of less than Rs 5,000/month. The majority of this population consists of Dalits, underprivileged, tribals and EBCs. Unless you ensure their social upliftment, and if you introduce economic criteria to maintain the hegemony of the upper castes, the fight against social inequality is a sham, it is propaganda, and no one will buy it.

The Point of Concern

The fight against social inequality was a 'work in progress' and reservation in jobs was supposed to be provided on the basis of social and educational criteria, rather than economic criteria.

The economic criteria has been brought up as a form of compensation for upper castes, and the intention behind it seems to be to maintain the social inequality that exists in society.

But as I have said, when your DNA drives you to maintain the status quo and you lack the vision to overcome feudalism and upper-caste hegemony, only then do you resort to such shams.

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