New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday targeted the Congress over providing reservation to the “economically weaker” section, saying that the quota ‘jumla’ had a mention in the opposition’s manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Making an intervention in the Lok Sabha during a debate on the constitutional amendment bill, Jaitley said that the Bill was aimed at “equality for all” and will enable social upliftment. He added that the Bill for 10 per cent reservation ensures ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’.

Jaitley’s attack on Congress  came after the party, which initially indicated it would support the bill, today said it would prefer a parliamentary committee to look into the matter.

Jaitley also rejected suggestions that the measure may fall foul of a Supreme Court judgement putting a cap of 50 per cent at the total quota.

The bar, he added, is for caste-based reservations, while the bill seeks quota for the economically weaker sections in the general category.

“Just as equals cannot be treated unequally, unequals cannot be treated equally… Reservation was always envisioned for socially or educationally backward, on the basis of caste. Therefore Supreme Court’s judgment applies only to reservation of backward classes,” he said.

Attempts were made earlier too by governments at the Centre and states in this regard but failed because they were done either through common statutory provisions or notifications, Jaitley said.

The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019 seeks to amend the Constitution by introducing provisions for reservation for economically weaker sections, he said, adding that it presently mentions only social and educational backwardness as the criteria for quota.

Quoting from the Congress manifesto, which called for such a quota, he asked it to “walk its talk” by supporting the bill, describing it as a test for the opposition party.

Several Hurdles to Make Implementation of Quota For Economically Backward Upper Castes a Tightrope Walk

Several Hurdles to Make Implementation of Quota For Economically Backward Upper Castes a Tightrope Walk

With Opposition members using ‘jumla’ jibe, Jaitley hit back saying if the mention of a similar quota for the general category in their manifestos was a jumla as well.

The BJP in its manifesto also supported the measure and is now working to implement it, he said, adding Constitution makers also spoke about equality of status and opportunity.

Taking a jibe at opposition parties for their protests, he said if they are supporting the bill, they should be whole- hearted and not grudgingly doing it.

He also added the bill, once passed by Parliament, will come into effect and would not be required to be ratified by state assemblies.

Opposing the reservation bill, AIADMK MP M Thambidurai said that quota cannot be given based on economic status. He said that there are enough schemes for the poor.

“Have govt schemes for the poor failed? There are enough schemes. This reservation bill which you are bringing will be struck down by the Supreme Court,” he said.

The Bill seeks to amend Article 15 of the Constitution, by adding a clause which allows states to make “special provision for the advancement of any economically weaker sections of citizens”.

These “special provisions” would relate to “their admission to educational institutions, including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the state, other than the minority educational institutions”.

It also makes it clear that reservation would be “in addition to the existing reservations and subject to a maximum of ten per cent of the total seats in each category”.