Opposition Terms New Quota Bill 'Election Stunt', But Welcomes Move

Several opposition parties questioned the timing of the Bill, claiming that it was a panicked moved by the BJP to reverse its falling popularity.

New Delhi: Parties across the board on Tuesday extended their support to the government’s move to provide 10% reservation in education and government jobs to economically backward upper castes, even as the opposition called it an “election stunt” ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The  Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha Tuesday, with most parties backing the measure.

The Congress said it supported the Bill, but doubted the government’s intentions. It said the move was merely a “poll gimmick” aimed at political gains in the upcoming elections.

Various parties, including the BSP, SP, TDP and DMK, also called it a BJP poll stunt, but welcomed the move.

Also Read: Lok Sabha Passes 10% Reservation Bill for Economically Backward Upper Castes

The Cabinet cleared the quota on Monday. The move followed as the upper castes, a staunch support base of the BJP, have shown signs of drifting away from the ruling party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, likely to be held in April-May this year.

BJP president Amit Shah described the Bill as a “gift” by the Narendra Modi government to the youth from poor families, saying it will open the door for their ‘golden future’.

Taking on the opposition over the issue, he said it was a lesson for other political parties who he said were doing “appeasement politics” for years.

Senior BJP leader and Union home minister Rajnath Singh described the passage of the Bill as being in the “national interest” and said, “Those poor who were not covered under the ambit of reservation can now avail its benefits. It had been a demand of people since a long time. I am assured that it will be passed in Rajya Sabha also.”

Echoing similar sentiments, LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan said the Bill was consistent with the Modi government’s philosophy of ‘sabka sath sabka vikas‘ (together with all, development for all).

“Now situation has changed in the society, there are poor among people from upper caste they should get reservation,” he said.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh. Credit: PTI

Question timing

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said his party supported the Bill, but no jobs were being created.

“The truth is that after four years and eight months, the Modi government has suddenly woken up to the woes of economically poor as it faces imminent defeat in the 2019 elections,” he said.

“Modi ji, the Congress will support reservation for the poor. But, who and how will people get the benefit of reservation in jobs when no jobs are being created?” he said on Twitter.

Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda said the government’s intention was doubtful since it was bringing the Bill in the final months of its tenure.

BSP chief Mayawati described it an “election stunt and political gimmick” ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. She, however, welcomed the “immature” move by the government.

“BSP’s demand to provide reservation to the economically backward sections in general category is approved by the Cabinet in an immature way and without preparation. Our party, however, welcomes the decision though it appears to be an election stunt and political gimmick of the BJP ahead of Lok Sabha polls,” she said in a statement.

Also Read: Optics, Not Welfare: The Politics of Appeasement Behind the 10% Reservation

“It would have been better had the BJP taken the decision much earlier… The government is now on its way out,” she claimed.

Samajwadi Party also extended its support to the proposed 10% reservation for poor among the general category, but demanded that reservation for OBCs should be raised, who constitute 56% of the total population.

“We demand that the OBCs who constitute 56% of the total population of the country should be given equal percentage of reservation,” party’s senior leader Ramgopal Yadav said while adding that the party supports the Bill.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu said the move was taken to divert attention from the alleged Rafale scam.

”However, we support the 10% reservation for the economically backward,” he said at a public meeting at Kosigi village in Kurnool district.

”At the same time, we seek inclusion of Valmiki community in the ST list, washermen community in the SC list and extension of reservation for Kapus under the backward castes quota,” Naidu said, recalling that the state legislature had passed Bills in this regard and sent them to the Centre for approval.

JD(S) supremo and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda also extended support to the Centre’s move.

“Janata Dal (Secular) supports the 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions for economically weaker sections of the upper castes. We have always stood for, and will continue to stand for betterment of the underprivileged and weaker sections of the society,” the veteran leader said in a series of tweets.

The DMK said the BJP-led government at the Centre has started a “disastrous game” with backward classes and others with this move.

He said the quota would not stand legal scrutiny as it has been clearly stated that “reservation should be for those who are socially and educationally backward”.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said the move was a “fraud on the Constitution and is an insult to Dr B.R. Ambedkar.”

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu. Credit: PTI

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. Credit: PTI

Lok Sabha adjourns sine die

The Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die on  Tuesday after the house passed the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2018 and the Constitutional Amendment Bill enabling 10% reservation for the economically weaker upper castes.

This was the last full session of the 16th Lok Sabha.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said 400 starred questions and 4600 unstarred questions were answered during the question hour.

She said 49 members were suspended for unruly behaviour during the session.