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Is Modi government playing with fire with the Savarna Reservation?

Arti Ghargi

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We have seen a number of examples in the past where political leaders tried to meddle with the reservation policies which resulted in nothing but the electoral disaster.

 

On Monday, the Modi cabinet raised the heat amidst the ongoing winter session of parliament by clearing 10% reservation for the economically weaker upper castes. The cabinet decided to amend the Constitution so that the “economically backward” upper castes will get 10% reservation in direct recruitment in government services and admission to higher educational institutions.

The proposed reservation will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking the total reservation to 60 per cent. Among the major castes to benefit from the proposed law are Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), Jats, Marathas, Bhumihars, several trading castes, Kapus and Kammas among other Upper Castes.

As the news took over the TV screens and print columns, it was projected as a “Master Stroke” by the Modi government. Some even called it a “Surgical Strike” ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Considering the Savarna backlash that the government received over the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (amendment) act, this might have been a last-ditch attempt by the ruling BJP to save its Upper Caste voters. Incidentally, the upper caste Hindus are its core vote banks. Thus, this move was being seen as vote bank motivated.

The question, however, remains whether it is actually effective or ground? Whether it will pay the electoral dividends the party is hoping for? Will the move achieve consolidation of both, Dalit and Savarna voters in favour of BJP?

BJP may hope the answer is in affirmative. But a quick scanning of pages of India’s political history can easily tell that it is otherwise. On the contrary, we have seen a number of examples in the past where political leaders tried to meddle with the reservation policies which resulted in nothing but the electoral disaster in the immediate elections.

Karpoori Thakur:

Karpoori Thakur was the first political leader to have felt the heat on the ballot box due to his decisions regarding the reservation policies. The socialist leader who was Bihar’s first non-Congress Chief minister first introduced the reservation for the economically backward upper castes in the country. His decision was based on the findings of the Mungeri Lal Commission. This commission had suggested a total 26% reservation in the state, of which 20% were for the OBC, 3% for the women of any background and 3% reservation for the poor Savarnas.

Karpoori Thakur decided to implement the reservation formula in Bihar in November 1978. However, he decided to divide the OBC category into two other sub-categories for the distribution of quotas, i.e. Extreme Backward Class (EBC) and Backward Class (BC). While EBC were allotted 12% quota, BC was allotted 8%.

Electorally, it proved to be disastrous for the leader. He had to endure major upper caste backlash for this move. Within a week, he had to vacate the CM chair. The reservation policy he introduced is popularly known as “Karpoori Thakur Formula”. The policy was halted in 1992-93 until the Supreme Court quashed it. However, with the Modi government’s new reservation card, the demand for implementing the formula in government jobs and educational opportunities has started gaining pace in Bihar.

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VP Singh:

Who can forget the political debacle VP Singh brought upon himself by announcing the implementation of Mandal commission report. Not only the country burned for months following violent protests but the controversial move proved to be a fatal blow to VP Singh’s political career.

In August 1990, seven years after the Mandal Commission report on the identification of OBC’s based on 11 parameters, VP Singh in his independence day address declared his intention of implementing the commission’s suggestions. The report proposed OBCs to be given 27% reservation making the total number of reservation go up to 49%.

This move sparked a series of student protest. The Self-immolation committed by more than 50 students across the country and suicide attempts by more than 100 people marked the end of the VP Singh’s minority government. Just 11 months after he took oath as the Prime Minister, VP Singh had to step down and was succeeded by Chandra Shekhar.

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Bhupinder Huda:

Having witnessed the fire sparked by the controversial reservation policies, Congress (UPA) for most of its term kept the reservation off its priority. Until 2014, when it made a last-ditch attempt to win the election, touched the reservation issue.

On the face of elections, Congress proposed to include Jats in Other Backward Class category. The Jat reservation only resulted in violent protests and hartals in the state. The Supreme Court eventually rejected it. The Congress, as we know, was reduced to only 1 seat.

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Prithviraj Chavan:

The Congress-NCP coalition government in the state of Maharashtra too followed the suite off Haryana government. The Prithviraj Chavan-led coalition government announced 16% reservation for the Marathas who have been demanding reservation since long. The move did not prove much fruitful as the coalition had to face dismal numbers in the immediate assembly election.

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These and many other cases in the past prove that any decision with regards to the reservation is equal to playing with fire. Thus, it begs a question whether the Modi government has learnt the time and again tested lesson provided by Indian Politics. With the recent decision, it seems it hasn’t or perhaps, it has chosen to ignore it.

Will it turn out to be political suicide for Modi government as well? Or will he be successful in breaking the jinx?

Opinion

Pakistan’s Punjab province minister sacked for anti-minority remarks, but when will India learn?

Smita Sahu

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Pakistan

It was yesterday that Pakistan’s Punjab Province minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan was sacked over his anti-Hindu remarks.

However, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was quick to take notice of such chauvinism, and directed chief minister of Punjab province Usman Buzdar to remove him immediately, stated the party sources.

The official Twitter account of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf tweeted, “PTI Punjab government has removed Fayyaz Chohan from the post of Punjab Information Minister following derogatory remarks about the Hindu community”.

It further stated, “Bashing someone’s faith should not be a part of any narrative. Tolerance is the first & foremost pillar on which #Pakistan was built.”

A spokesman for the Punjab chief minister stated that Chohan submitted his resignation, which was immediately accepted.

Later, according to a senior government official, the chief minister had “forgiven” Chohan after he apologised in public for his remarks, but the prime minister directed Buzdar to immediately remove him from the ministry.

Earlier in the day, Chohan apologised for his remarks following intense criticism. He said, “I was addressing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indian armed forces and their media not the Hindu community in Pakistan.” He further said, “I apologise if my remarks hurt the Hindu community in Pakistan,” Chohan said. “My remarks were in no way directed at Pakistan’s Hindu community.”

While his remarks attracted much of grave criticism from the minority community and senior party leaders for not watching his remarks and exhibiting insensitivity to the said community, could we in India, say with inflated chests that our political leaders irrespective of the political parties they represent, have not been guilty of putting on display the same kind of approach?

Sample this:

On 19th February Meghalaya governor Tathagata Roy asked for a straight boycott of Kashmir in the wake of the Pulwama attack on his twitter handle.

 

He tweeted, “An appeal from a retired colonel of the Indian Army: Don’t visit Kashmir, don’t go to Amarnath for the next 2 years. Don’t buy articles from Kashmir emporia or Kashmiri tradesman who come every winter. Boycott everything Kashmiri. I am inclined to agree.”

For a person who holds a stature of the governor of a state, Roy’s comments do not just pose to be insensitive but come at a time when particularly the students in Kashmiris are being victimized, and only seem to invoke people against Kashmiris. Worse still, his statements are also flagrant of constitutional principles which he, as governor, is obligated to maintain.

And the array of scathing anti-minority remarks just does not stop at Roy’s statements.

We also have controversy’s favourite child Minister of State for Skill Development.

anantkumar-hegde

Turns out, he was an accused in a hate speech case, under Section 295 A of the IPC, for reportedly making seditious statements about Islam at a press conference in Sirsi town on February 28, 2016. Responding to a question on a number of Muslim youths from Bhatkal town in his constituency being arrested on terrorism charges, Hegde was alleged to have said, “As long as there is Islam in this world, there will be terrorism. Until we eradicate Islam from the world, we will not be able to eliminate terrorism from the world.” He also allegedly called Islam a “ticking bomb”. Result, nothing good came out of the FIR that was registered against him.

And then amidst all of this, how could someone like Sakshi Maharaj let himself abstain and desist from making such communal comments.

Sakshi Maharaj

 

In fact, the BJP MP felt that the problem of the surging population needed his instantaneous attention so that he could cash on the opportunity right ahead of the elections where the polling dates had been already announced by the Election Commission. This was in January 2017. He said, “The population rise is not because of Hindus. The population has risen due to those who support the concept of four wives and 40 children.”

He was later booked in Meerut under section 298 of IPC besides other provisions of law for hurting religious sentiments of Muslims and violation of model code of conduct. But then, as is usually the case, one does not know as to what further action was taken in this regard.

With all this blatant exhibition of hatred and antagonism for the minorities in a secular nation like ours, how is it that not one of these was told to resign? What has been done as a corrective measure to ensure that a line is drawn to such seditious statements? With Pakistan bringing in such welcome changes into its governance, it is high time the ruling dispensations follow our neighbouring country’s example and start bringing such remedial into action to curb such anti-minority remarks.

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Air strike will help BJP to win more than 22 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, claims BS Yeddyurappa

News Desk

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karnataka

Bengaluru | BJP leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa on Wednesday said that the recent IAF Air strike on terror camps in P0K will help BJP to win more than 22 Lok Sabha seats in his home state Karnataka and help reelect PM Narendra Modi in upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Addressing media during his visit to Chitradurga in Karnataka, Yeddyurappa claimed that PM Modi’s decision to instruct Indian Air force to conduct airstrike on terror camps across the border has raised the feeling of nationalism among the citizen and will indirectly help BJP to win maximum seats in upcoming Lok Seats in Karnataka. The former CM said, “The Indian Armed Forces proved their mettle by destroying the terrorists’ hideouts. The impact of this strike will help BJP win more than 22 seats in state.”

Yeddyurappa’s statement has come after the recent Airstrike by the Indian Air force on the terror camps of terror organistaion especially Jaish-e-Mohammed which claimed responsibility of the terror attack on the CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama. According to govt sources more than 300 terrorists were killed in the IAF airstrike in Pakistan’s Balakot, Muzzafarabad.

 

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Raghuram Rajan says coalition govt may slow down economy. Does history support his claim?

Arti Ghargi

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Raghuram Rajan

It was during UPA’s coalition govt. a tenure that India’s GDP growth rate touched the two-digit number for the first time.

“These days’ efforts are being made to popularize a failed experiment in the history of Indian politics by the name of Mahagathbandhan,” fired PM Modi from the podium at BJP’s national convention at Ramleela Maidan. His attack on the opposition came few days before the United Opposition rally at Kolkata’s brigade ground. “These people are trying to make a ‘majboor sarkar’ (a helpless government) and not a “Majboot Sarkar” (A strong government),” he charged further.

This notion that the coalition governments are weaker and not capable of delivering on their promises has been prevalent in the Indian electorate and media for a long time. On Thursday, former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan too expressed the possibility that the Indian economy may slow down if a coalition government comes to power after the 2019 Lok Sabha election. His comments took many by surprise as he has been critical of the demonetization and other economic policies launched by the Modi government-a majority government.

But, does the hysteria that coalition governments are bad for the economy, hold any water? Well, to answer that we first have to look at the history. India has had a long list of coalition governments. Since the time of Morarji Desai to Manmohan Singh’s UPA, in the last fifty years, India has mostly been under the coalition government. The only two elections when the political parties were able to get the majority were- general elections of 1984 and 2014.

Let us first go through India’s GDP growth figures over the years, as it is considered the core indicator of development. We will present the numbers since 1991, as the economy was liberalized in the year. Incidentally, the major economic reform was brought by the PV Narasimha Rao-led coalition government.

According to the World Bank data, in the year 1991, India’s GDP growth was 1.05%. The country was on the brink of an economic crisis when the PV Narasimha Rao government brought in measures to resurrect the economy. From ending license Raj, introducing LPG policy to opening up India’s equity market for the foreign investors, the government transformed the economy. The success of the government in bringing the required economic reform can be gauged by the sheer amount of Foreign Direct Investment. India grew from the minuscule US $132 million in 1991–92 to $5.3 billion in 1995–96. In the last year of the coalition government’s term, the GDP growth of India was recorded at 7.55%.

After the hung parliament in 1996 General Elections, 13 different non-congress, non-BJP political parties came together to form United Front with Deve Gowda as the Prime Minister. He held the office for a brief term before stepping down from the post and making a way for his successor IK Gujaral. During the United Front government, the GDP Growth rate for 1997 and 1998 were 4.5 and 6.1 respectively.

After the United front government, came the coalition government led by BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In his five-year tenure from 1999 to 2004, the GDP growth of India went through many ups and downs. While in 1999, the growth rate was 8.84%, in the subsequent years it fell to 3.84%, 4.82% and 3.80% respectively before taking a jump and hitting 7.86% growth rate in 2003. In the next year, it moved slightly upward and registered 7.9% growth rate.

In its term of five years, the Vajpayee government worked towards increasing foreign investment, modernisation of public and industrial infrastructure, the creation of jobs, rising the high-tech and IT industry.  The policy shift was focused on the salaried class urban and young people.

Then came the UPA government led by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. As many as 22 parties came together to form the United Progressive Alliance that ruled the country for 10 years from 2004 to 2014. During the first term and half-way through the second tenure, India’s GDP remained constantly rising, except in 2008 when it collapsed to 3.89%. It was during UPA’s tenure that India’s GDP growth rate touched the two-digit number for the first time. The 2006-08 was a period when the poverty fell down drastically.

There was a high rate of growth in manufacturing industries between 2004-05 and 2010-11. In 2012, the UPA government decided to disinvest in the public shares, if successful there would have been a receipt of 20,300 crores that would have provided some relief to the fiscal deficit. The aim of UPA was to bolster economic growth and make India an attractive destination for foreign investment. In 2013, it introduced 51% FDI in the multi-brand retail sector. However, it was met with a lot of opposition.

After 2014, when the Modi government came to power with an absolute majority, India’s growth rate was 7.41%. It rose to 8.41 the subsequent year and then plunged to 7.1% and 6.6% in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The major economic reform that the Modi government undertook was the introduction of GST.

Well, history does not lie but it gives us lessons. And even the former RBI governor YV Reddy agreed that the coalition government produce a better economic result. However, bringing major economic changes mostly depends upon how stable is the prevailing government- coalition or majority. As HW News Business Editor remarked that even if there is a coalition government, the dominant party should be strong enough to push through the economic policies. “A fractious coalition may lead to compromise on various Economic policy issues,” he said.

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