Union Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot has said the BJP government's move to provide 10 per cent quota for the economically backward section in the general category was aimed at empowering the poor and not for electoral benefits as alleged by the opposition parties. He claimed the Congress government led by Narasimha Rao had tried to provide reservation for the general category poor but did not follow proper procedure.
The BJP government has fulfilled the long-pending demand as it was committed to the issue and did not want to betray the people of the country, Gehlot said. "The poor belonging to the general category had for long been demanding quota for them, like that for the SC, ST and OBCs. Our government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership has done justice to them," the Union minister, a Dalit face within the BJP, said.
He said the government neither violated the 50 per cent cap on a reservation set by the Supreme Court "in any manner" as it was applicable only for the SC, ST and OBCs, nor it had any intention to interfere with the existing quota for these categories. "We followed proper procedures and made Constitutional amendments to carve out quota in the general category. We inserted clause 6 in Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution -- which are on discrimination and equal opportunity -- to implement it.
"The Congress government under P V Narasimha Rao tried to grant quota in the general category but did not follow proper procedures because of which he apex court struck it down. The recent refusal by the apex court to stay the Centre's decision shows that our procedure was constitutionally valid," Gehlot said. He claimed that the move has created an atmosphere in the country favourable to Modi.
"Not only those belonging to the general category but also members of other community has praised the Modi government for it and will vote heavily for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls," the Union minister said. Asked about the BJP's fortunes in the parliamentary polls, Gehlot said, "Every election is a challenge and the BJP under Modi has the power to convert every challenge into an opportunity."
On whether the Congress or regional parties, teaming up to oppose the BJP, pose a more formidable challenge to the saffron party, he said, these parties are "battling for survival" which is why they are seeking to stick up alliances. He alleged that most of the leaders in the UPA government and other regional parties were "knee deep in corruption" and many of them are out on bail.
"The vote base of the Congress and other regional parties (BSP and SP) has almost eroded because of their negative politics. People of the country know these parties are going for alliances for their own survival and thus a government formed out of such alliance will be a weak one. "The People of the country do not want a helpless government, they want a strong government ('Desh ki janta majboor nahin mazboot sarkar chahati hain'). They know that only a strong government under Modi can take tough decisions as it has taken against terrorism and Pakistan.
"The two surgical strikes during which our armed killed terrorists have instilled confidence and a sense of security among citizens," he said. On allegations of the Modi government being "anti-Dalit", Gehlot said the BJP-led NDA dispensation has taken many steps for the empowerment and welfare of all, including the Dalits.
"The Modi government wants an atmosphere of harmony, equality and unity in the society where everybody gets equal benefits and opportunities and nobody is left out," the Union minister said. Laws to protect the Dalits from atrocities and to safeguard their rights were strengthened during the NDA regime while the financial allocations for several welfare and empowerment schemes were increased, Gehlot said.
(With inputs from agencies.)