Leaders of Opposition parties on Monday criticised the government’s reported move to allow reservation for poorer people among the upper castes, with some saying that the decision was an election gimmick.
Earlier in the day, multiple reports said that the Union Cabinet had approved amendments to allow 10% reservation for economically weak sections of people belonging to the general category castes in jobs and education.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi asked why the government had not thought of this in the four years and eight months it has been in power. “So obviously thought of as election gimmick 3 months before model code [of conduct comes into force],” he said on Twitter.
Singhvi asked if the government was trying an unconstitutional thing “only to posture” since it knows it cannot exceed the 50% cap for reserved seats, as ruled by the Supreme Court in 1992. He also asked if the ruling coalition has the majority needed for constitutional amendments.
Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal challenged the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government to get the Constitutional amendments passed before the elections this summer. “If they do so, the Aam Aadmi Party will support the government [to get it passed], else it will be clear it is just an election gimmick,” Kejriwal tweeted.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the “bugle announcing the elections has well and truly sounded”.
Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said the proposal was “nothing more than a jumla [gimmick]”. “It is bristling with legal complications and there is no time for getting it passed through both Houses of Parliament,” he wrote on Twitter. “Government stands completely exposed.”
Congress leader Harish Rawat told ANI that the government had “taken a lot of time for this generosity, and that also when elections are around the corner”. “No matter what they do, what gimmicks they give, nothing is going to save this government,” he said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav pointed out that the purpose of reservation was not to improve financial condition of people but to improve representation of socially backward people. “If financial condition was to be improved, Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have had given Rs 15 lakh and jobs,” he said, according to News18.
Patidar leader Hardik Patel said the decision was the government’s “last arrow” and a “lollipop”.
Chirag Paswan, whose Lok Janshakti Party is a constituent of the ruling National Democratic Alliance, welcomed the move. Union minister Ramdas Athawale called the decision a “masterstroke”.
Bharatiya Janata Party MP Udit Raj also welcomed the decision, according to the Hindustan Times. “Now the ceiling [for reserved seats] will be raised from 50%-60%... Parliament is very much empowered to raise this ceiling,” he said.