The Modi government’s move on Monday to give 10 per cent reservation to the economically weaker sections belonging to the upper castes/general category has drawn sharp criticism from the Opposition parties and political leaders who have termed the move as an election ‘jumla’ and publicity stunt ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress, which is already trying to get the Central government on the mat over the Rafale issue questioned the legality of the move since the Supreme Court has put a cap of 50 per cent on reservations.

“Did you (government) not think of this for 4 years and 8 months? So, obviously thought of as an election gimmick 3 months before the model code. You know you cannot exceed 50 per cent cap, so it is done only to posture that you tried an unconstitutional thing,” Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

Citing the MR Balaji case in which the Supreme Court put a 50 per cent cap on reservations Singhvi said, “Forward reservation is a gimmick to fool people, the 50 per cent cap continues to be law.

“Government only misleading nation. Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan tried exceeding 50 per cent quota but were struck down by court. Modi, BJP clearly think Indian public eats grass,” said Singhvi, adding that the move was a sign of Modi’s “fear and certainty of losing 2019 elections.”

D Raja of Communist Party of India (CPI) said the move indicated BJP’s desperation. “What exactly they (government) have decided we don’t know. How they have defined ‘backwardness’ we don’t know. Already the Supreme Court has put a cap on reservation at 50 per cent. That has not been challenged by the Central government, which means the cap remains.

“So in this case, what Supreme Court is going to do we don’t know. There are many questions which need to be answered. They have to come before Parliament. The BJP is desperate, it is panicking and rattled. It wants to do certain things for fear of losing vote base.”

Supreme Court advocate and nominated Rajya Sabha member KTS Tulsi said, “This looks like an attempt in the direction of abolishing the entire reservation system.”

Former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha dubbed the move as jumla and questioned the government’s intent, citing legal complexities and lack of time as the current session of Parliament is scheduled to end on Tuesday.

“The proposal to give 10 per cent reservation to economically weaker upper castes is nothing more than a jumla. It is bristling with legal complications and there is no time for getting it passed through both Houses of Parliament. Government stands completely exposed,” he said.

Randeep Surjewala of Congress said, “The government accepted in the Parliament that there are 24 lakh vacant posts that have not been filled by the Modi government. We are in favour of reservation in jobs, but the youth is asking when will they get the jobs.

“100 days are left for elections and Mr Modi now remembers the economically weaker sections of the society, he added”

(With agency inputs)