EWS quota | Congress undertakes a ‘political review’ of its position on the Supreme Court verdict


The move comes after opposition from southern States, and pushback from key allies like the DMK and the RJD

The move comes after opposition from southern States, and pushback from key allies like the DMK and the RJD

Amid growing opposition from south Indian States over the Supreme Court verdict on reservation for Economic Weaker Sections (EWS), the Congress has commenced a “political review” of its position on the issue.

A source said party president Mallikarjun Kharge has spoken to former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to examine the “social and political” impact of the top court’s judgment, while senior advocate of the Supreme Court and Rajya Sabha member Abhishek Singhvi has also been tasked with studying the finer legal points.

Also Read | TN all-party meet decides to file review petition against EWS quota verdict

Once the internal review is over, the party will take a call on whether it will undertake a legal review as well, the source cited above said.

Though the Congress had earlier welcomed the top court’s verdict that upheld the 103rd Constitutional Amendment to provide 10% reservation to the EWS category, the party has been forced to take a relook after a strong pushback from key allies like the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

With the majority view of the five-judge Bench stating that Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) should be excluded from the EWS category, the DMK has already announced its decision to file a review petition at the top court.

Editorial | Economics and exclusion: On Supreme Court upholding 10% EWS quota

“All five judges have upheld the 103rd Constitution Amendment to the extent that it provides for reservations for the EWS category. Three judges have opined that the EWS category could exclude Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs. Each of them has given different reasons for their respective positions. Two judges have opined that exclusion of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs from the EWS category is unconstitutional,” Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh told reporters on Saturday.

“Along with many other parties, the Congress party had supported the Constitution Amendment Bill in Parliament even as it had demanded a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) on it for more detailed examination. But it was pushed through keeping the Lok Sabha elections in mind. A large number of issues have been raised by each of the five judges. The Congress party is now studying them in detail,” Mr. Ramesh added.

In a subsequent tweet, Mr. Ramesh said, ”Lest there be any doubt about it, the Congress has always supported reservations for economically weaker sections of all communities, without in any way disturbing existing reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBC communities in education and employment.”

Another senior leader, who is familiar with the developments, said the party has been prompted to nuance its position keeping the ground realities in mind in States like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

“In these States, there is a real concern that very few castes would corner the 10% EWS quota and south India is very important for us,” the leader said.

That there were divergent views on the subject was clear from Tuesday’s tweets by Mr. Chidambaram. In a tweet last Tuesday, he asked: “The powerful dissent of the two Honourable judges underlined the truth that the basic structure of the Indian Constitution did not permit exclusion [of SC, STS and OBCs]. There are poor among all castes and communities. The moot question is ‘will the poor be treated equally under the Constitution?’”

Asked if the Congress party, after welcoming the top court’s verdict, is having a rethink, Mr Ramesh said, “I won’t call it rethink but a deep think. While we are a national party, we have to be respectful and sensitive to the concerns of several States. We have to work out a balance.”

Other parties, too

It’s not just the Congress, other parties in the Opposition camp are also rethinking their position on the EWS quota. The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) are in talks with leaders of Opposition parties for a joint agitation demanding a caste census. “How can the government decide 10% quota for the upper castes without assessing the percentage of upper castes in the population? Only a caste census would reveal this,” a senior Opposition leader said.

The RJD and JD(U) had offered support to the DMK’s efforts to mobilise opinion against the Supreme Court verdict. “Our position has been clarified by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that the State will hold a caste census. We will hold discussions with all Opposition parties on the issue of a national caste census,” RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari said.

The Left parties have said that the Supreme Court order raised certain major questions that needed to be addressed. The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said it has always questioned the criteria for defining the EWS category. The Opposition is now basing its arguments on the minority views in the Supreme Court order.


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