Union Cabinet approves reservation for economically weaker sections in general category.
New Delhi: The move to provide 10 per cent quota in jobs and higher education to the "economically backward" upper caste" nearly four months before the Lok Sabha polls, could well be a game changer for the BJP. The master stroke delivered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi not merely caught the Opposition off guard, but it's a decision that the political rivals might find difficult to criticse.
This has been a move, which the Opposition parties ranging from Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party among others had been trying to achieve, but did nothing to take the step.
It may be recalled that during 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Samajwadi party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav had promised to set up an upper caste commission to deal with the issued faced by the ecnomically weaker section among them.
The BSP supremo, Ms Mayawati had made similar demands both in 2007 (when she formed government in Uttar Pradesh) and 2011. In 2011 Ms Mayawati wrote to the then Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh and urged him to make a provision of reservation for poor among the upper caste.
Reports stated that the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu in 2016 indicated that his government was looking at the option of extending reservation to the poor among the upper caste.
While the Opposition parties failed to make the move, the Modi government in a decisive step went ahead and bit the bullet. The decision to push for reservation for poor among the upper caste is not expected to disturb the existing reservation for OBCs, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes.
Union minister for social justice and empowerment Ramdas Athawale while welcoming the decision said: “It is a masterstroke, but many strokes are still pending. Mr Modi is a strong batsman there will be many sixes and fours.” BJP's Dalit MP, Mr Udit Raj, who had been critical of BJP’s “treatment of Dalits” also welcomed the decision but told a news agency that “This will open a Pandora’s Box and others will also demand reservation now.”
Some Dalit leaders in the ruling NDA too have demanded such a quota for the upper caste poor. Ram Vilas Paswan, Union minister and the chief of Lok Janshakti Party, an NDA ally, said last year that the upper caste poor should be given 15 per cent reservation.
Another Dalit leader, Ramdas Athawale, Union minister and president of the Republican Party of India, an NDA ally, rooted last year for 25 per cent reservation to the poor among the upper castes by enhancing the quota limit to 75 per cent.
The reservation benefit is likely to be availed by those whose annual income is below `8 lakh and have up to five acres of land, the sources said. Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution will have to be amended for implementation of the decision, the sources added.