The intent behind Modi government's passing the bill providing for 10% reservation for forward communities that currently do not enjoy reservation in jobs and educational institutions, in Lok Sabha is to minimise loss of votes in the coming general elections, as any child in this country can make out.
The hurdles for such a constitutional amendment bill are no small: both houses of parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have to pass it with a majority of two thirds of the strength of members and then the specified number of state assemblies also have pass it before getting it signed off by the President. It is with full realization of the fact that it is nearly impossible to overcome these hurdles prior to the elections, that the NDA government tabled it in a hurry before the house at the fag end of its winter session.
An apprehension has gripped BJP whether even the sections that had traditionally backed right wing forces had deserted the party in the recent elections to five state assemblies. Following this came certain survey results showing that the trend may continue in the upcoming general elections and that NDA will fail to win the required majority. It is in the hope that the new reservation bill, coming out of a quick boiler would please at least the forward classes, that the party pushed it through the Lok Sabha. At the same time, it may also have an underlying motive of creating confusion on the issue within the Opposition that has been busy consolidating different parties against the BJP.
The Opposition ranks of course do have adocates as well as critics of the concept of quota for the poor among forward communities; in some cases opinion is divided even within a party. The new bill also has a background of the situation wherein the sangh parivar was put on the defensive with the stern stance of Mohan Bhagwat, chief of RSS which rejects reservation in its very principle. But it is notable that on the bill moved with such multiple motives, the Opposition has reacted with caution. The Congress, even as it supports the principle of reservation for the poor among forward classes, has assessed it as a gimmick to deceive the people ahead of the elections.
The CPM, which had been in favour of economic reservation, also questions the bona fides of the new bill. Mayawati's BSP has pointed at the conspiracy behind the bill, all the same without opposing the concept in it. In fact most of BJP's opponents are likely to take the same line. That means, when the bill comes up before Rajya Sabha where NDA does not enjoy a majority, it will have to face the same fate as the triple talaq bill did. And with that, the exercise will end up as an election stunt.
It is undeniable that the secular democratic constitution of India provided for quotas for scheduled castes & tribes and other backward communities on the sole basis that they are socially and educationally backward. But that was never intended to ameliorate the poverty of any caste or to give them some jobs. In due recognition of the fact that for historical reasons the majority formed by the Dalits and backward communities of India were at the bottom rung in educational and social terms, the architects of our constitution introduced reservation to empower them and bring them on a par with forward communities. In fact the framers of the constitution led by Dr Ambedkar had the determination that they should bring to an end the upper caste hegemony which by practising untouchability had relegated the majority of the country to being woodcutters and performers of menial jobs.
Even after seven dacades since independence, the goals of the constitution have not only been unfulfilled, but the very goals are being torpedoed through the current move for rewriting the constitutional provisions regarding reservation. It can only be termed unfortunate when even parties that profess secularism are taking a position without recognizing this move.
Economic backwardness is a reality, but the solution to that does not come through reservation in education and jobs for the undeserving. On the contrary, that backwardness is to be addressed through ensuring jobs, reasonable wages and affordable standard of living for all sections. That forms the very essence of the constitutional vision of socialism too. And those in power who mortgage the country to corporates, landlords and those indulging in big-time corruption, cannot bring in social justice. Since they are quite aware of this fact, they try to hold on to power by dividing the people with communal polarization and religious bigotry on the one hand, and on the other by practising legerdemain like economic reservation. Moves in this direction are bound to lead the country to deep crisis.