The Constitution (124 Amendment) Bill, 2019, which seeks to provide 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically weaker sections (EWS) in the general category is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s masterstroke — and will silence his opponents both within and outside the Sangh Parivar.
Ever since Modi became PM — having projected himself as an Other Backward Class (OBC) candidate — the OBCs favoured him. Interestingly, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat has been against OBC reservations.
Recently, Modi had become very vulnerable after his party got defeated in three north Indian states.
It is a well-known fact that the RSS has been opposed to reservations ever since the policy was drafted around 1950-51. Reservation was first granted to the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (SC) in 1950.
The Backward Class (BC) reservation came in with the first amendment, which reads:
“The Constitution of India states in Article 15(4): "Nothing in [Article 15] or in clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens of or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribe.”
In addition, Article 46 of the Constitution reads, "The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation."
The Constitution (124 Amendment) Bill of 2019 will insert in Article 15, "Special provision for the advancement of any economically weaker sections of citizens.”
The Bill also seeks to amend Article 16 to enable the State (including the provinces) to allow up to 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions for the ‘economically weaker sections’ of society.
The RSS and the larger Sangh Parivar have remained opposed to reservations of all forms — except in this case.
This is the first time that the RSS has not resisted a quota. And it so because the move has been craftily drafted by the Modi government.
While the Congress had repeatedly in the past promised EWS reservation, it could never actually do this because the party has an open structure and failed to overcome resistance from its own Brahminical ranks.
From the days of Indira Gandhi till today, Congress has had some very strong anti-reservation voices and the leadership could not overcome their hold on the party.
It was with great difficulty that the Congress implemented some pro-reservation initiatives in 2006-07 in central educational institutions through the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006.
The current EWS quota allows reservation for castes that have no reservation accessibility — it is a pro-upper caste (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Bania) reservation agenda.
So, why did the BJP government headed by Modi, who has an OBC certificate himself, take such a step when RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has been repeatedly saying that the entire reservation policy needs a review?
In fact, Bhagwat’s views on quotas have been echoed by many senior leaders in almost all political parties. For example, senior Congress leaders like Manish Tewari and Janardan Dwivedi have gone on record to say that they are opposed to all reservations.
BJP leader Nitin Gadkari, who is reportedly being promoted as an alternative to Modi, is also an anti-reservationist leader.
Ideologically, many in the BJP are anti-reservationists. Currently, Representatives of Youth for Equality, an organisation that is fundamentally against reservations, has challenged the proposed amendment to the Supreme Court.
In fact, the VP Singh government was apparently pulled down majorly due to Singh pushing for reservations.
Over a period of time, the RSS had reconciled with the SC/ST reservation — but never with the OBC reservation. It was a surprise that the RSS allowed Modi to be BJP Prime Ministerial candidate even though he openly said he was an OBC. It is another matter that Modi actually belongs to the Bania caste.
The secrecy that Modi and BJP president Amit Shah maintained on the Bill, till it was brought before the Cabinet, was only aimed apparently at ensuring that the news wasn't leaked to Mohan Bhagwat.
Though this reservation is meant for upper castes, among whom Bhagwat operates, it validates the principle of reservation that Bhagwat is opposed to.
Modi and Shah knew that no party could oppose the EWS quota bill in Parliament, except on details.
But the real sabotage could have come from the RSS headquarters.
The RSS is pitching for the construction of the Ram temple through the ordinance route, but not reservation for upper castes.
It is for this reason that Modi and Shah kept it a secret from RSS.
TV channels that are anti-reservationist but staunchly pro-Modi were suddenly taken aback and started hurriedly looking for panellists who could oppose the BJP’s move. But it was difficult to find them since those opposed to quotas are no longer talking about ‘merit being compromised’.
If the Supreme Court upholds the 10 per cent EWS quota by allowing reservation to go to 60 per cent, many state governments can work out their own reservation policies.
Since every candidate who applies for reservation under the EWS category also has to produce a caste certificate on all major campuses, the reservation humiliation for SC/ST/OBCs would no longer sustain.
Caste now will become a level-playing agent in all institutions.
I am low caste, you are poor — and both of us came with reservation.
Hence, respect each other — that will be the institutional language.
The anti-reservationists and pro-merit walas have lost their moral base once and for all.
Modi and Shah have more enemies within the Sangh Parivar than outside it.
They have used the ‘quota weapon’ pretty effectively to silence everyone — in just one go.
The person who has been hit the hardest is Mohan Bhagwat. But he is not alone. The likes of Manish Tewari and Janardan Dwivedi have also been served a huge blow.
When the amendment reaches the Supreme Court, the judges who will sit on the bench to decide the matter will face a real test of nerves.