Prime Minister Narendra Modi during BJP NationalExecutive Meet, at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi, Friday, Jan 11, 2019.

Will Modi’s Double-Edged Quota Gamble Reap Electoral Gains?

The constitutional amendment to grant 10 percent quota to the economically weaker sections was passed in both houses of Parliament in just 72 hours. The bill, which required two-thirds majority, got the support from most opposition parties, illustrating how politically popular the move is perceived to be.

“This has undeniably been done with an eye on the polls,” said political analyst Manisha Priyam. But just passing the legislation will not suffice, she said, adding that BJP will benefit only if voters can perceive a clear personal benefit soon enough.

People also understand very clearly that all of this can be questioned legally. People will understand this is something that is not coming by very soon.
Manisha Priyam, Political Analyst

Sadanand Dhume, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, thinks the BJP is trying to be too clever by half. The quota based on economic criteria has “enthused” a section of the BJP voters who hope reservations will shift from being based on caste to economic wellbeing. “The prospect of this would be alarming to existing beneficiaries.”

BJP expects one section of the population to be exultant because they see the end of the old reservation around the corner, but expect the other section of the population to believe this won’t change the existing order.
Sadanand Dhume, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

The bill passed in Parliament says existing reservations would not be touched and the additional 10 percent would be over and above the 50 percent. That, however, won’t stop opposition parties from painting the fears of a policy change.

“This is not a masterstroke but a desperate move,” said political analyst Javed Ansari. He points out to reservation for Jats announced by the UPA government right before polls. A promise made in the hope of winning votes that failed in the face of the Modi wave is an example of why last-minute measures may not work.

Watch the full debate here: