Now, quota for upper caste poor

In a move that could have far-reaching political ramifications either way for the ruling party, the Narendra Modi government on Monday approved 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions for the economically backward sections in the general category.

The BJP’s upper caste gamble comes in the backdrop of the reverses the party suffered in the Assembly elections in three Hindi heartland states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — where upper castes were up in arms against it over the perceived excessive Dalit tilt in recent times.

Informed sources in the government said the two-paged Cabinet note that was okayed by the government on Monday carried proposals of providing 10% reservation for economically weaker sections in direct recruitment and for admission in higher educational institutions through a Constitution Amendment Bill, which is likely to come before Parliament on Tuesday itself.

The Opposition was quick to dismiss the move as “politically motivated for elections”, terming it “jumlabaazi” and an attempt to “befool people” with the Congress asking where the jobs were. Opposition parties asked how the government can get the Constitution Amendment Bill — which is being brought in without its consultation — passed in Rajya Sabha when it does not have even a majority.

 

The bill will amend Article 15 (which stipulates prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and Article 16 (which deals with equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) of the Constitution.

This 10% quota will be over and above 50% mandated by the Constitution and hence a Constitution Amendment Bill will be brought in to breach the ceiling. The proposal seeks to define the Extremely Backward Sections category on certain parameters like their annual income being below Rs 8 lakh and agriculture land ownership being below five acres.

The quota will be available to only those economically backward poor people not availing the benefit of reservation as of now, who have a residential house below 1,000 square feet, a residential plot below 100 square yards in a notified municipality, residential plot below 200 square yards in non-notified municipality area.

The computation of income will take into account earnings from different sources including agricultural income and income from any other profession.

While in Madhya Pradesh upper castes joined hands with OBCs and under the banner of SAPAKS fielded candidates in a large number of Assembly seats denting BJP’s prospects, other groups like Karni Sena and Parshuram Sena also targeted the BJP.

That the core constituency of the BJP upper castes is restive against the party was also conveyed to it through RSS and internal party organs. However, the BJP has in a number of its poll manifestoes during state elections, promised quota for economically backward among upper castes.

The move could be a double-edged sword for the BJP, which has in the last four-and-half years of the Modi government, sought to reach out in a big way to OBCs and Dalits and shed the “Brahmin Baniya” tag associated with it. While Modi himself belongs to Extremely Backward Class community, BJP had projected the appointment of a Dalit President Ram Nath Kovind as its big achievement.

The recent moves by the party to bring a bill to overturn a Supreme Court  order that provided for some safeguards in arrest in cases under SC/ST Act and unequivocal assertions in favour of Dalit quotas by some BJP leaders, had angered the saffron party’s traditional vote base — upper castes, who had threatened to vote for NOTA (None of the Above ) than for BJP.

It remains to be seen how this quota gamble of the BJP resolves the NOTA threat from its upper caste voters.

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Now, quota for upper caste poor

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