Is the BJP Poised to Drown in its 10% Upper Caste Reservation Stunt?

Lok Sabha has endorsed the 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker “upper castes” and some people are heralding it as a mega move by the BJP that would bolster both its image and performance in the upcoming 2019 General Elections. This may seem to be true if taken on its face value; however, this move by the BJP may eventually beckon its own awaiting doom. There are two primary aspects to this issue that this write up shall try to underline – the role of reservations in the upscaling of the Indian socio-economic edifice and the gains (or losses) of the BJP.

Let’s try to first introspect on the social setup of India before we try to divulge on the case of reservations. India’s social setup before the arrival of the British East India Company was deeply rooted in the aghast social rift between upper and lower castes. Brahmanist and upper caste supremacy formed the epitome of all social, economic, and political overtures and overturns in the country. At some places, this was also combined with the capitalist hegemony of the rich and canonized social and political groups over the so called lower castes. The irony is that although Islam does not recognize any caste system, even the Mughal rulers of India (who may have ruled the country based on at least minimalist Islamic tenets) failed to do anything significant to uproot the abhorrent caste system from the country. The result is that this caste-based social setup continues as an unwinding edifice of the present day India as well (and even the Muslim Indians are not bereft of it).

When reservations for the backward classes were first introduced, it was seen as a means to “bring about an improvement in the welfare who, historically, have been economically and socially depressed.” – as stated by Akash Shahin his doctrinal research. Shah further elaborates in his article that many beneficiaries of reservations include well-off groups while the poorer groups have failed to reap the anticipated benefits. Shah argues that the reservation policy is rigged with structural challenges and is bound to fail because it is based on “a discriminatory bias” and does not emphasize on the current economic status of a beneficiary. Shah is right to a large extent; however, another aspect that he fails to outline is that reservation stunts in the past have been nothing more than appeasement tools for some political parties that base their identity on “lower caste” alignment. VP Singh bore the brunt of such an appeasement stunt back in late 1989, which came in the form of Mandal Commission. It seems the BJP is now trying to tow on the lines of another reservation stunt with the current suggested 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker “upper castes” – the only difference being that the target audience (seduction audience??!!) now is the upper caste.

Reservations (and all such ill-thought political stunts) have been exploited by many a politicians and political entities every now and then. Until some time back, even some groups of Muslim politicians were seen demanding the reservations for the entire Muslim Indian population. These maneuvers are bereft of any sincere intentions and are mostly confined to political stunts. Incidentally, the BJP is the latest in this race to have placed it in its quiver of political stunts. And when almost all the political parties, including Indian National Congress and AAP, have supported this stunt, it only attests and verifies my initial assertion that this caste-based social setup continues as an unwinding edifice of the present day India even today. It also endorses the fact that except for a few, almost all political parties in India are rigged with Brahmanist supremacy and stink of crony capitalism and repression of the subdued castes in the disguise of democracy and social justice – some openly while other discretely.

My standpoint on reservations is consistently clear since the beginning – reservation in its current format is no means to an end, irrespective of whether it is for the economically weak upper caste or the traditionally repressed lower caste. A socialist educational system that provides free education to all at all educational levels may be a key to settling the malice. A state-monitored free educational setup like the ones offered by many European countries shall ensure, among other things, that all citizens are provided with a level playing field without any bias. It will also ensure that merit (and not caste-based inclusion or discrimination) becomes the sole criteria for everyone to excel and gain a meritorious foothold in contributing to the nation’s development. How and when this may be implemented is a separate topic of discussion. However, one thing is clear – this cannot be implemented till Indian politicians and the general populace give it a thought with a clear conscience and receptive intentions. Till then, reservations and other such appeasement tools will remain confined to an armament of political blitzkrieg.

On the hind sight, BJP has been seemingly successful in consolidating the larger Hindus of India under the Hindutva identity in the past few years. With its eye on the 2019 General Elections, it is expected to release many such spectacular and dramatic sops to ensure it maintains its grip on the vote bank. Its claims of “sabka saath sabka vikas” endorse the opinion that it will do everything possible to bring all classes of Hindus (for the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, it’s always been the Hindus) under one “roof”.

However, by bringing in this bill for 10% reservation of economically weaker upper castes, the BJP is sure to lose some (or maybe quite significant) grounds from the lower castes. Its blitzkrieg of consolidating the Hindus on purely religious grounds has already started slithering towards the failure syndrome. Only time will tell whether this move by the BJP is an addendum to this unification of roof strategy or a random political stunt unleashed under panic.

Sharjeel Ahmad is MBA and an Economics graduate. He is an instructional designer by profession and is presently based in Saudi Arabia. He has keen interest in social, economic, and political issues facing Indian populace, with special emphasis on minority issues.