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Panelists feel that though parties are unlikely to oppose the move, its timing is questionable

With an eye on securing upper caste votes in the upcoming general elections, the union cabinet cleared a Constitutional Amendment Bill to give 10% reservation to the economically backward sections of society, over and above the 49.5% quota in place for SC, ST and OBCs.  APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue. Anchorperson Anant posed the questions to panelists including the Congress’s Anuj Atre, BJP’s Vijay Khare, JDU’s Afzal Abbas, SP’s Vinay Kumar Singh, dalit expert Gangaram Ambedkar, and APN consultant Govind Pant Raju.

Khare said: “Sometime or the other this Bill had to be tabled, and at anytime, it would have been blamed on the polls. The truth is that no party wants to think of the economically poor.”

Ambedkar said: “This is hogwash, simply a poll stunt, meant to divert upper caste attention. The Justice Rajinder Sachar report mentions that poor are in all communities. Parsis, Buddhists, Lingayats, all have poor sections. Among Muslims, there are many who are poor, so why don’t you have quota for poor Muslims also.”

Khera said: “This quota does not discriminate. It is geared to an egalitarian society. Buddhists or Muslims, the poor of all communities will all get covered in this quota.”

Atre said: “Congress supports the move for quota. Supreme Court had said that no quota beyond 50 percent should be allowed, and the government should have considered that. Though we support the move, it can’t be overlooked that it is a pre-poll populist move. Since the mandir mudda failed to generate interest, government was looking at some move that will divert the nation’s attention. The government first needs to let all know where are the jobs? Gadkari has said there are no jobs. The government should think of job creation first, and then plan quota.”

Abbas said: “BJP’s move is commendable. We want the economically poor to come up.”

Singh said: “This is another fraud. Supreme Court has said that economically backwardness is no base to give quota. This is just a jumla.”

Raju said: “Look at the facts, this has come at the fag end of the government’s tenure. This is a pre-poll move. Every political party brings up issues to grab attention. BJP is doing the same. Any other party would have done something similar before the polls. This will have an impact on the society.”

Anant moved the debate to the timing of the bill. Atre said: “There are no blocks to the move, as is being claimed. When Supreme Court had put the 50 percent embargo, ‘special conditions, economically poor’ were mentioned for affirmative action. For 20 years, Mandal report was kept waiting, our party too wanted to study the report, which is why it could not table the Bill earlier.”

Atre said: “This is just the BJP’s effort to grab poll mileage.”

Ambedkar said: “Indira Gandhi delayed the Mandal Commission Bill. Just as Gandhi delayed the Bill, this move might just became a populist announcement with no real benefit for the poor. It’s a poll stunt. Economic backwardness exists in all communities, not just among upper castes.”

Raju said: “It might be that the government’s intention is clean, but we have to see that time is very less in parliament to debate the move. BJP leaders must have done this to duck the backlash against it.”

Singh said: “The timing of the BJP’s move is unique. The BJP leaders are expert at that. No promise has been fulfilled. It is just a lollipop move, another jumla.”

Khera said: ”Congress is the main opposition party. Mahatma Gandhi wanted to wipe the last tear of the poor. Modi too thinks like that, and I don’t think any party will oppose this move.”

Atre said: “The Congress will see to it that the move is cleared from its side, but the courts are also there. Therefore, there is a question on the BJP’s intentions.”

Singh said:” Let’s see and understand the bill first. Why this hurry? This is an old ploy of the BJP. It is like a salt-less pakora.”

Raju said: “It is too early to say how this will impact the polls directly, especially in upper caste constituencies. But it is certain that the economic quota debate has now been started. The upper hand is of BJP right now on this issue.”

Ambedkar said:”Quotas help the poor and the backward. In that sense, the move is welcome. But noteban was also announced at the last minute. There should have been a national debate on this, otherwise it looks like a sensational move only.”

Compiled by- Niti Singh Bhandari

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