Upper Caste Reservation Bill by Narendra Modi – an Election Master Stroke

By introducing the 10% reservation bill in Parliament, Narendra Modi has done a Virat Kohli by putting the opposition on the mat. If this quota bill is passed then not just Hindus but other communities like Christians and Muslims too will get reservations in jobs and education.  

Narendra Modi
Will the 10% upper caste reservation bill for the ‘upper castes’ win Modi the 2019 Lok Sabha elections? Image Courtesy- India Today

Remember the Melbourne test where Kohli did the unthinkable? He did not force the Aussies to play on after they crashed in their first innings!Modi has played in a similar manner. While everyone thought that he would bring the Ram Mandir ordinance, Modi astonished his critics by this 10% reservation bill!

Rahul Gandhi, Mamta, Mayawati and Akhilesh are now forced to support this quota bill. If they don’t then they might lose the support of the ‘forward castes’ in Rajasthan, MP, UP, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh!

But, why the 10% reservation bill?

If you are a newcomer to Indian politics then you should know that so far reservations meant giving sops to the scheduled castes and tribes, and the other backward castes.

In 1951, The Nehru government amended the constitution to ensure that the backward castes and tribes had a quota in the Parliament. But this amendment did not tell anything about reservation in jobs and educational institutions.

The Mandal Commission

In 1979, the then Central government decided to set up the Mandal Commission for deciding the reservation criteria for the scheduled castes, tribes and other backward classes. This commission recommended a 27% quota for the Other Backward Castes like the Yadavs in Central government jobs. It also said that SCs and STs must get 22% of all government jobs. The total percentage of all reserved jobs now stood at 49 %.

Did the Indira and Rajeev governments act upon this report? No.

V. P. Singh Smelling an opportunity

In 1989, VP Singh decided to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission. In effect that meant that the so called backward castes went away with the lion’s share of government jobs and college seats.

Actually, Singh wanted to undercut the growing influence of his alliance partner, the Bhartiya Janata Party.

The implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendation led to large scale violence in the country. Now, every other party- the Janata Dal, Congress and others- was actively courting the backward castes.

Upper Castes left out in the cold

Meanwhile, the upper castes felt that they had been cheated by the Congress and the Janata Dal. These castes went over to the Bhartiya Janata Party and formed its core voter base.

Narasimha Rao, the Congress PM of the mid 1990s, was clever. He understood that in several states, the traditional vote base of Congress -the SCs and STs- had gone over to the remnants of the Janata Dal. Congress was shriveling in most parts of India day by day.

In order to get back the support of the upper castes, he announced that the deprived sections of these castes could get 10% of all the central government jobs. Rao hoped that with this order, the Congress would get back the support of the ‘forward castes’.

But he was in for a shock!

A Big No to 10%

In 1992, the Indian Supreme Court cancelled Rao’s order of 10% reservation . The Court said that there was no way that the reservation cap of 50% could be exceeded. This meant that only the scheduled castes, tribes and other backward castes were eligible for reservations in jobs and education.

The forward castes were yet again left out in the cold.

The new masters of Delhi

Now, let’s do some time travel and talk about the events that happened in 2018.

In 2014, the BJP stormed back to power after beating the Congress to pulp. After assuming power, the party concentrated on two things- development of the country, and attracting the scheduled castes.

In 2017, the party won more than 3/4th seats of all the assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh. BJP was now convinced that the SC vote bank in the largest state was solidly behind it and had left Mayawati for good.

Mid-2018, the BJP government enacted a law that was clearly unfair to the members of the ‘forward castes’. Per that law, any non-SC person had to be arrested if he committed any ‘atrocity’ on any member from the scheduled caste community.

It was the duty of the police to make the arrest and there was no bail for the accused!

A hat-trick of losses

This was a horrible mistake of the Narendra Modi government. His party lost three important states in the 2018 assembly elections.

The ‘forward castes ‘ were boiling with anger. With no jobs, this core voter base of the BJP was waiting for a long time to get back at the party. Many political pundits say that the anger of these voters led to its losses in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

After this defeat, things are looking very difficult for the BJP to retain power after May 2019. Many political experts say that the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would throw up an unstable government. BJP may return to power but with very less numbers.

What next?

Modi and the BJP perhaps feel that the 10 % reservation bill will help them to get back the support of the angry ‘forward castes’. It will also win them the votes of Muslims and Christians.

Brahmins, Baniyas, Jains and Rajputs live in large numbers in Rajasthan, UP, MP, Haryana, Bihar and a few other north Indian states. These groups often vote for the Congress and the BSP but not so after the passage of the quota bill.

If this 10% reservation bill is passed then these castes have all the reasons to thank the BJP. The Congress can’t lay credit because it did not pass the same bill while it was in power during 2004-14!

On Wednesday 9th January 2019 the 10% reservation bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha. The Upper House or the Lok Sabha has already passed this quota bill. Now bill will be presented before president.

As expected none of the party opposed the bill in the Rajya Sabha.

The bill is needed to avoid the 1992 Supreme Court order that capped all reservations at 50%. Since bill has been passed in both houses, the Modi government can amend the constitution.

But would this quota bill help the Modi government win the 2019 Lok Sabha elections comfortably? Only time will tell.

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