A reduced number of upper caste votes in the recently concluded Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh has forced NDA government to return to traditional vote base through an impenitent political manoeuvre. Last month, the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) act sailed through both the Houses and the President’s approval came through in three days. Introduced just months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, this move is considered as a game changer for the ruling BJP.
The apex court decided to look into the decision of allowing 10% reservation in education and jobs to underprivileged candidates from the general category. Refusing to order the implementation of the policy, a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued a notice to the central government on various petitions challenging the validity of the 103 Constitutional Amendment Act which paved way for the EWS act.
Who will the new 10% Quota apply to?
If implemented right, the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) act will be beneficial to individuals who:
- Are not included in the existing quotas
- Possess a family income below ₹8 lakh pa or agricultural land below 5 acres
- Those who do not have a house above 1,000 sq. ft. or a 100-yard or a 200-yard plot or above in a non-notified municipal area
How will “upper caste” Hindus and similar groups of other communities benefit?
It’s a difficult question to answer given the various factors involved. If EWS is considered as a category like OBC, SC or ST, many general categor candidates will apply for 10% seats thereby rising the cut-offs. Ideally, the non-reserved 40% open seats should be available based on merit but there are complexities here too. For example, the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) accepts a reserved candidate in the civil services examination making it in the general merit list as general only in the mains, preliminary and service choice (If a reserved candidate gets IAS or IPS due to the reservation, one is counted as reserved irrespective of his/her overall rank). Therefore, many who are above the general cut-off will occupy this 10% quota, as they get a better cadre or service.
All central universities follow the reservation policy as below:
- 15% seats for Scheduled Castes
- 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes
- 27% for Other Backward Classes
If the EWS is followed, admission to all public institutions will be through the same methods used for the Other Backward Classes.
What are the political implications of EWS?
Economically weaker upper castes will react positively to the move. But they will stick to BJP anyway. This will help BJP clinch upper caste votes in states where the party is weak but the long-term political implications are unknown. The moot question is the impact on the existing reserved categories in states where BJP is strong and takes a chunk of OBCs.