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Whenever the elections, be it of the Lok Sabha or State Assembly or even of the civic bodies whatsoever, are round the corner, all the political parties which are in the fray remain busy preparing poll strategies to put up brave front against the opponents with a view to winning as much seats as possible to brighten the prospects of taking over the rein of government. It is possible, only if a political outfit has a good service record. A ruling party becomes popular among the electors if it fulfils at least some basic needs of the people or delivering those goods. But, the ruling BJP loses much of its credibility among some sections of voters in several Hindi heartland states such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh where it had strong footing for not doing what it had promised before elections.

 Which is why its heavy weights strain every nerve to refurbish its image with an eye on the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections by dishing out freebies and promising other benefits to them, understandably to keep them in good humour?  

            The popularity of the BJP-led NDA government at the centre at present is something far from gratifying. To argue more precisely, its image in several states, in particular, is not as before.  This gets well-mirrored in the results of the recently-held State Assembly elections, especially in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the two Hindi heartland States, where the Congress party won a massive mandate, known to be its citadel, as these states, in Madhya Pradesh, yet another Hindi heartland State , also  the Assembly results went in favour of the Congress. Anti-incumbency stemming from the disillusionment of upper castes with the BJP’s dithering in addressing their demands, is what can be considered as the major factor behind its debacle.

            So in a surprise move decidedly taken ahead of the Lok Sabha elections given their gradual drifting away from the party, the Modi cabinet has approved the proposal for 10 per cent reservation for economically poor among the major castes in government jobs and admission for higher studies in educational institutions. The (124 Amendment) Bill in this regard has of late become an Act with the President giving his assent. The move taken was evidently for one fundamental reason, to placate upper castes who make up for a solid BJP vote-bank, to consolidate their votes ahead of the fast-approaching general elections.

           The new law stipulates that those in the general category whose family income is below 8 lakhs per annum and own less 5 acres of land are entitled to reservation. Among the major castes to benefit from the Law are Brahmins, Rajputs, Jats, Marathas, Bhumihars. It will also benefit the poor in other religions. Most opposition parties have termed it as an election gimmick, but they are unlikely to oppose. The glitch with the government is that, there is possibility that constitutional validity of the Act may be examined by the Supreme Court as it has been challenged in the court on two basic grounds by the NGO “Youth for Equality”. Of course, reports suggest that the Centre may bring a constitutional amendment bill to circumvent 50% cap on quotas set by the Supreme Court in the famous India-Sawhney & others vs Union case.  

Dwaipayan Dasgupta  

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