NPP slams VPP as Ardent, others begin indefinite hunger strike

VPP MLAs and supporters, led by party president Ardent Basaiawmoit, stage an indefinite hunger strike in front of the Main Secretariat, on Tuesday. (ST)

SHILLONG, May 23: Voice of the People Party (VPP) chief Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit, who launched an indefinite hunger strike in front of the Secretariat on Tuesday, has vowed to continue with it till the state government responds positively to the party’s demand for a review of the job reservation policy.

The VPP chief told journalists the hunger strike was launched as a mark of protest against the alleged indifferent and adamant attitude of the state government and its failure to accept the demand for a review of the job reservation policy.

“The hunger strike will continue till the time government responds positively to our demand,” he said.

The VPP’s action evinced a quick response from the NPP which slammed the former for attempting to score political points by milking the contentious job quota policy.

Reacting to the indefinite hunger strike launched by VPP supremo Ardent Basaiawmoit, party MLAs and supporters, the NPP said the job reservation policy is just a political issue for the VPP.

“This may be a political issue for the VPP but we are more concerned that the political issue may have legal implication,” Rajya Sabha member and NPP state president WR Kharlukhi said.

Stating that the VPP keeps on insisting on the job reservation policy as per the resolution dated January 12, 1972 and referring to the office memorandum of the government, Kharlukhi said, “But at the same time, please don’t sidestep the first paragraph which reads in pursuance on clause 4 of Article 16 of the Constitution of India.”

“I am sure that if a wrong step or decision is made, this decision will be challenged in the court of law. The question here is whether your office memorandum will stand the scrutiny of the court against Clause 4 of Article 16,” he said.

He observed: “Another problem may arise in the Supreme Court ruling that no reservation should be beyond 50%. The 10% increase today is a judgement given in 2019 by the Supreme Court for the economically weaker section.”

Recalling media reports that the VPP is ready for a debate on this issue, he said, “It is a very good suggestion and I think the National Law University will be the right forum to have this debate in front of legal luminaries, respectable citizens and the media.”

Earlier, a group of police personnel and magistrates was seen standing outside the Secretariat gate when Basaiawmoit, party MLAs and leaders were sitting on the hunger strike.

He said the protest is not being staged to get an invitation from the government for talks and added that the government has not updated the party on the steps taken so far on the demand.

Insisting that reservation among the state’s two major tribal communities should be based on population ratio, Basaiawmoit said he was forced to organise the hunger strike as the government was unwilling to discuss the need to review the “flawed” job quota policy.

He said retrospective implementation of the roster system would result in Khasi youth not getting any more government jobs in the next 50 years.

Terming the government as confused, he questioned the need to constitute the committee if all political parties are satisfied with the recent presentation made by the government on the roster system.

Basaiawmoit, however, welcomed the government’s decision to put on hold all recruitment processes. At the same time, he said the government should come out with a notification in this regard.

In a late development, Ardent and his team shifted to the parking lot near the Additional Secretariat where they spent the night.