BJP’s contradictory positions on quota

While favouring reservations in promotions, the Modi government does not support any quota for SCs and STs for admission to post-graduate medical courses on the ground that it is incompatible with the norm of merit. (PTI file photo)

The Central government has indicated that it plans to go to the Supreme Court for a review of its judgement on reservation in promotions for members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government service. The court has ruled against reservation in promotions, and made it clear that it should be implemented only at the entry level. Though it has not completely ruled out all reservations in promotions, the conditions attached by the court have made the idea unworkable. Some states have also been considering the proposal but are stuck at the same hurdle. Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said that the government would implement the idea through an ordinance if there is no positive result for the review plea. The government seems to be keen on pursuing the proposal, which the SCs and STs consider important. This has also prompted it to seek a review of the court’s ruling which diluted the SC and ST atrocities law by providing some guidelines for its implementation. 

But the Modi government and the BJP are in a cleft stick in dealing with the Dalits and their issues. While favouring reservations in promotions, the government does not support any quota for SCs and STs for admission to post-graduate medical courses on the ground that it is incompatible with the norm of merit. Some state governments run by the BJP have also taken the same position. The party tends to take contradictory and inconsistent positions on reservations because of the conflict between the positions and interests of its core support base and the need to keep the Dalits in good humour for political and electoral purposes. That is why it has been caught on the wrong foot on many issues that concern the Dalits. The dilly-dallying about filing a review petition against the ruling on the law on atrocities clearly showed this. It was after countrywide protests by the Dalits that the government hastened to file the petition. So its sincerity came to be questioned.

This was not new and the party has always had to face this situation. Though the BJP has tried to appropriate B R Ambedkar and to cultivate the Dalits, its outreach to them has lacked credibility. It has not always protected Dalits when they were attacked and has been seen as shielding the attackers, as in the Unnao case. From Rohith Vemula through Una to Unnao, the Dalit experience of the BJP and its governments have not been happy. It will continue to lack credibility with the Dalits as long as it is unable to form a coherent policy on reservation and other issues that concern the Dalits. 

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BJP’s contradictory positions on quota

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