Thiruvananthapuram: When the CPI ministers boycotted the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, caught in the Chandy resignation melee, the Cabinet effected a major policy shift in the Kerala reservation policy by applying the concept of economic reservation in Devaswom jobs. The shift is tectonic given Kerala’s consensus past these six decades to stick to community reservation in Government and quasi-Government jobs. The CPM, since the time of the late E.M.S. Namboodirippad, had sought to introduce the concept of economic reservation. But the guiding norm for reservation has been “socially and educationally backward classes” in the state, never compromising on the economic concept.
But the Wednesday’s Cabinet has turned the clock. The Cabinet decided to amend the rules to introduce 10 percent reservation in Devaswom jobs for the poor among the forward communities and also recommend to the Centre to amend the Constitution to bring in economic reservation for forward communities in state and central jobs. If the CPI ministers were present in the Cabinet, they would never have let this pass because the party’s considered position all these years has been that reservations are not merely templated on the economic status but on social and educational backwardness, a burden passed down centuries on the subalterns.
The general consensus has been to stick to caste-based reservations, which could be altered only after a sociological and scientific review of the benefits of social engineering attained by the reservation classes. Implied in this stance is the understanding that any tinkering with the traditional reservation system would be playing into the hands of those opposed to the uplift of traditionally depressed sections. It is not just the CPI, which is opposed to the dilution of the reservation regime by introducing economic reservations. There has been a consensus across the political spectrum, barring the CPM. There was an instance in the Assembly when the entire Opposition, barring the CPM, stood up to support the UDF resolution on caste-based reservations. The CPI ministers now would have to regret for their lack of caution in letting the “retrograde decision” pass because the revised note for the Cabinet agenda, prepared by Chief Secretary K M Abraham, was delivered at residences of ministers late at 11 pm the previous day. The CPI ministers failed to take note of the midnight missive. The irony is that this major decision does not have the political sanction of the LDF.