Parties across the board Tuesday extended their support to the government's move to provide 10 per cent reservation in education and government jobs to economically weaker sections, even as the Opposition called it "election stunt" ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
A landmark bill seeking to provide 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education for the general category poor was passed by the Lok Sabha Tuesday, with most parties backing the measure.
The Congress said it supported the bill, but doubted the government's intentions. It said the move was merely a "poll gimmick" aimed at political gains in the upcoming elections.
Various parties, including the BSP, SP, TDP and DMK, also called it the BJP's poll stunt, but welcomed the move.
The Cabinet had on Monday cleared the quota for economically weaker sections. The move followed as the upper castes, a staunch support base of the BJP, have shown signs of drifting away from the ruling party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, likely to be held in April-May this year.
Taking on the Opposition over the issue, he said it was a lesson for other political parties who had been doing appeasement politics for years.
Senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh described the passage of the bill as being in the "national interest" and said, "Those poor who were not covered under the ambit of reservation can now avail its benefits. It had been a demand of people since a long time. I am assured that it will be passed in Rajya Sabha also."
Echoing similar sentiments, BJP's ally LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan said this is in line with the Modi government's philosophy of 'sabka sath sabka vikas' (together with all, development for all).
"Now situation has changed in the society, there are poor among people from upper caste they should get reservation," he said.
The truth is that after four years and eight months, the Modi government has "suddenly woken up" to the woes of economically poor as it "faces imminent defeat" in the 2019 elections.
"BSP's demand to provide reservation to the economically backward sections in general category is approved by the Cabinet in an immature way and without preparation. Our party, however, welcomes the decision though it appears to be an election stunt and political gimmick of the BJP ahead of Lok Sabha polls," she said in a statement.
"It would have been better had the BJP taken the decision much earlier... The government is now on its way out," she claimed.
Samajwadi Party also extended its support to the proposed 10 per cent legislation for poor among general category, but demanded that reservation for OBCs should be raised, who constitute 56 per cent of the total population.
"We demand that the OBCs who constitute 56 per cent of the total population of the country should be given equal per centage of reservation," party's senior leader Ramgopal Yadav said while adding that the party supports the bill.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu said the move was taken to divert attention from the alleged Rafale scam.
''However, we support the 10 per cent reservation for the economically backward,'' he said at a public meeting at Kosigi village in Kurnool district.
''At the same time, we seek inclusion of Valmiki community in the ST list, washermen community in the SC list and extension of reservation for Kapus under the backward castes quota,'' Naidu said, recalling that the state legislature had passed bills in this regard and sent them to the Centre for approval.
JD(S) supremo and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda also extended support to the Centre's move.
"Janata Dal (Secular) supports the 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions for economically weaker sections of the upper castes. We have always stood for, and will continue to stand for betterment of the underprivileged and weaker sections of the society," the veteran leader said in a series of tweets.
The DMK said the BJP-led government at the Centre has started a "disastrous game" with backward classes and others with this move.
He said the 10 per cent quota would not stand the legal scrutiny as it has been clearly stated that "reservation should be for those who are socially and educationally backward".
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)