Why this ignominy only for Arjun Singh? | india | Hindustan Times
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Why this ignominy only for Arjun Singh?

MURKY POLITICS sometimes throws up queer paradoxes. So, ten individuals may have sown the seeds?in this case, Constitutional seeds?of something that appears offensive, not instantly but only later, but then only one of them could be seen facing brickbats!

india Updated: Apr 17, 2006 00:41 IST
JB Sinha

MURKY POLITICS sometimes throws up queer paradoxes. So, ten individuals may have sown the seeds—in this case, Constitutional seeds—of something that appears offensive, not instantly but only later, but then only one of them could be seen facing brickbats!

Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh’s fate is no different. He is at the receiving end of the mounting ire of those who are aghast over any thought of enforcing reservation in Central government academic institutions. His effigies are going up in flames.

It is not that the ‘truth’ is too old. Only public memory has gone short. It happened in less than a year; the compass was wide, covering tall political parties, Parliament, and the Constitution.

A seven-judge bench verdict delivered on August 12, 2005, by the Supreme Court blocked the government’s power to reserve seats for the backwards in ‘private unaided’ educational institutions.

Followed a furore in Parliament and outside. The judiciary was exceeding its limits, MPs shouted. Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterji echoed their protests. The cause of social equity had been defeated, it was argued, though the incentive for the protest lay in the tempting backward caste vote-bank.

So it suited all political parties when they, including the BJP, unanimously authorised the Union HRD Ministry to undo the apex court verdict through a Constitutional amendment. It could yield to all of them and the Congress too their own cut from the large vote cake which backwards make. It seemed to, ironically, represent the unanimity among all political parties to keep the polity divided along caste lines to sidetrack the basic issues or development and governance from people’s minds. The government happily agreed, instead of putting forth any resistance!

The result. With an overwhelming unanimity, Parliament passed the 104th Constitution Amendment Bill in December 2005, stipulating reservation for the backwards in ‘private unaided’ educational institutions, barring, of course, minority institutions. No hue and cry was raised.

It did not rest there. Subsequently, as all political parties, incluing the BJP, also unanimously went the whole hog for clearing the passage of the Constitution 93rd Amendment Bill by Parliament on February 2, 2006. Apart from reservations in private unaided educational institutions, it further empowered the Central and state governments to enforce backward, SC and ST reservation in ‘government-aided’ academic institutions also by enacting a ‘special’ parliamentary or state legislation, as the case may be. Again, no hue and cry was raised. Why so much noise only now?

Parliament represents the ‘will of the people’. A clear mandate was given by Parliament through the Constitution 93rd Amendment to enforce backward reservation in aided institutions through a ‘special’ legislation. In deference to it, Arjun Singh initiated preliminary steps; he has only been in the midst of seeking opinion of various ministries for months. A ‘special’ parliamentary legislation for enforcing reservation in Central educational institutions is still born. Also, no mandatory Union Cabinet go-ahead has still been given for enacting a ‘special’ parliamentary legislation for reservation in Central institutions.

Then, Arjun Singh’s sin? This much that a few days back, he told mediapersons in reply to a query that any decision regarding implementation of reservation in Central academic institutions would be taken only after the ongoing state polls. All hell broke loose. He found himself suddenly placed in the range of anti-reservationists! Also, the Election Commission slapped on him a notice for violating the model code of conduct.

“Did I make a new promise or announce a new policy decision of the Central government during the ongoing state polls? No, I merely talked in the context of what the 93rd Constitution Amendment, passed by Parliament with the backing of all parties, had already mandated the Central government to do. So, how does any question of my violating the model code of conduct arise?” Arjun Singh asks.

Then, it were the MPs and leaders of all the political parties who had unanimously voted for the Constitution 93rd Amendment in February 2005 for reservation of seats in government institutions. “Why should not the effigies of all of them, instead of mine only, be set afire?” Arjun Singh may well ask. And legitimately so.