The newly-introduced reservation for general category comes just a month after the saffron party suffered its biggest ever poll debacle ever since it stormed to power at the Centre four years ago in 2014.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last-minute move of bringing 10 per cent quota for the economically weaker sections in the general category has been termed as a ‘masterstroke’ by his supporters and ‘poll gimmick’ by the opposition leaders. While the BJP says that the move is aimed at giving an equal opportunity to all the economically weaker sections of the society, the timing of it certainly becomes contentious as the country is just months away from the next Lok Sabha Polls.
The newly-introduced reservation for general category also comes just a month after the saffron party suffered its biggest ever poll debacle ever since it stormed to power at the Centre four years ago in 2014. Several political pundits attributed the BJP’s defeat to the growing anger among Brahmins and Rajputs in all three states – Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh — following the Centre’s act to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision on SC/ST Act.
The Modi government’s surprise move even left the Opposition stumped, with most parties favouring the passage of the Constitution Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha. The BJP’s hope that the move will quell upper caste anger and yield political dividend is no vague assumption and there is some pure arithmetic that has gone into it.
The BJP appears to have played its Brahmastra to crack the poll arithmetic that revolves around upper caste voters in 180 of 341 constituencies in 14 states where the saffron party had recorded commanding performance in 2014 — the BJP had won a staggering 256 seats from these states in the last general elections. The states where the BJP had got the biggest success in the last elections were Uttar Pradesh (71 of 80), Rajasthan (25 of 25), Madhya Pradesh (27 of 29), Gujarat (26 of 26), Bihar (22 of 40) and Maharashtra (23 of 48).
In all this, Uttar Pradesh has somewhere between 35-40 seats where upper caste voters can decide the election results. After UP, Maharashtra comes in second with 25 seats where the general category voters will play a decisive role. Then comes Bihar which has 20 seats where upper caste voters are in a majority. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have 14 seats each where the upper caste voters could decide the fate of any political party.
Gujarat has 12 such constituencies where these voters will decide the poll results. Apart from these big states, the general category voters will decide the results on 5 seats in Delhi, 5 in Uttarakhand, 4 in Himachal Pradesh and 6 in Jharkhand. These numbers are enough to tilt the power for any political party in the Centre and this may be one of the reasons that no big opposition leader has criticised the move except for calling it a ‘poll gimmick’ and that it won’t stand the scrutiny in the Supreme Court.
Who Gets What?
Currently, the reservations are given to the other backward class (27 per cent), scheduled caste (15 per cent) and Scheduled Tribe (7.5 per cent). The OBC constitute 41 per cent of the total population and SC & ST together make over 25 per cent. Still, the country has over 34 per cent population largely of upper castes that did not have any form of reservation in any government job or educational institution. The BJP has tried to benefit these very people with the 10 per cent quota provision.
The bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha and now it is in the Rajya Sabha for passage. The discussions over the bill are underway in the Upper House.