On Monday, the Supreme Court, in a 3:2 ratio judgment, upheld the 10 percent reservation quota for persons from economically weaker sections (EWS) in admissions and government jobs, ruling that it does not violate the basic structure and the equality code.
Chief Minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot, who is also the Congress’s senior observer for the coming Gujarat elections, said the apex court judgment would help the poor people get justice. He told reporters, “I welcome the Supreme Court judgment. This will help the poor get justice. Our spirit should be that a poor person, irrespective of which community he belongs to, gets justice”.
BJP leaders maintained that the EWS quota, announced in January 2019, was not intended to dilute the existing caste-based reservation but to offer help to those who did not have the means of pursuing education and needed help securing their future.
In 2019, months before the General Election, the union government announced a 10% reservation in the EWS category in central government jobs and admission to educational institutions, over and above the existing 50% reservation for SC/ST/OBC categories extended by the state governments. The bill—103rd Constitution Amendment Bill — was supported by a large section of Parliament except for Lalu Prasad’s RJD, DMK, and the Aam Admi Party. DMK and the AAP had walked out of Rajya Sabha when the bill was passed.
BJP general secretary BL Santhosh tweeted, “Supreme Court upholds the legality of EWS reservation for unreserved sections. Another major credit for PM Narendra Modi’s vision of Gareeb Kalyan. A big boost in the direction of social justice.”
Addressing the media, party spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said, “The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the 103rd amendment to the Constitution that talks about reservations for the poor, the deprived, and the under-privileged put a constitutional stamp of approval on the decision taken by the Narendra Modi-led government. The SC has held that the said amendment is constitutional and reflects the PM’s vision to empower the poor and ensure social equality of status”.
While the BJP has redoubled its outreach among the OBCs and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes over the past eight years to increase its presence across the country and to widen its support base, the party has been mindful of the resentment among the so-called upper castes that feel politically alienated.
The announcement of the quotas itself was seen as an attempt to placate the upper castes after the Bharat Bandh protests of 2018, when massive protests and violence broke out across the country against changes in the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA) by the Supreme Court, which was later countered through the legislative route.
The BJP has maintained that the quota aims to empower the economically weaker sections who do not benefit from the caste-based reservation.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Reshma Patel, who had participated in the Patidar quota agitation, welcomed the verdict. “The verdict adds an extra virtue to the outcome of the struggle of the Patidar youth in Gujarat. A large section of people from the economically backward section will benefit from the judgment and 10% EWS reservation,” she said.