The Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto, released on April 7, 2014, and its opponents’ reaction to the proposal, exemplifies the level of political debate in India today. In spite of an element of truth in claims that the manifesto is an impressionist’s version, the document nonetheless departs on certain crucial, philosophical issues. But, such is our reluctance to engage on matters of first principle that these departures are rarely, if ever, contested with anything resembling an intellectual vigour. Take, for instance, the issue of reservation. While the Indian National Congress and most other political parties have proposed detailed policy measures, including the prospect of reservation for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the private sector, the BJP’s manifesto is curiously silent on the issue. Even the promise contained in its 2009 declaration to introduce reservation for the economically weaker general class finds no mention in this term’s version. It is likely that this decision is a product of electoral strategy. But its failure to clarify its vision is nonetheless symptomatic of a larger malaise in the Indian political sphere: a mistrust of debate subsumed by core issues of moral concern.
Visit http://axa-equitable-life-insurance.itpatil.com/ for AXA Equitable Life Insurance Blog, News and Reviews.
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s answer to questions of whether there ought to be reservation along caste lines is similarly devious. He sings the same tune/s that he uses to counter any issue of economic inequality. According to him, the development and growth of the economy will bring with it a concomitant rise in both educational and employment opportunities, making the question of any community seeking reservation moot. But both Mr. Chidambaram’s claims about merit and Mr. Modi’s arguments about development skirt the real issue. At its inception, the Constitution envisaged very limited reservation. Articles 15 and 16, which today occupy the bedrock on which our entire policy of affirmative action rests, were meant to entrench a system where no discrimination was permissible on grounds of race, religion, caste, etc. Even clause 4 to Article 16, which permitted reservation in public employment for any backward class of citizens, was viewed as subservient to larger goals contained in clauses 1 and 2. Any such programme for reservation justified under Article 16(4) had to be shown to further the objective of ensuring equality of opportunity to all citizens. But over time, the original philosophical outlook toward affirmative action has waned. The politics of quota and merit - The Hindu