V. Balakrishnan, former chief financial officer of Infosys and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from the Bangalore Central Lok Sabha constituency, has said that affirmative action for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the private sector will “inhibit growth”.

On the other hand, B.T. Lalitha Naik, former Minister and AAP candidate from the Gulbarga (SC) constituency, has said reservation in privately owned businesses was “necessary given our social and historical context”.

Asked to respond to the promise of affirmative action in the Congress manifesto, which was released on Wednesday, Mr. Balakrishnan on Thursday said: “Meritocracy is important. The information and technology industry is a shining example of this.”

While Ms. Naik, who was campaigning in Gulbarga, said her position on the issue was her “personal opinion” as she was still to discuss it with the party, Mr. Balakrishnan was categorical that it was also the party’s position. He argued that creation of more jobs was necessary at this point of time for India and it could not happen if rules that impede growth were put in place. “Industries should be encouraged to do more on their own rather than be confined by rules,” he said.

AAP State convener Siddharth Sharma said the party, in principle, believed in lessening interference by the government, and the reservation policy would amount to further imposition on the private sector. He, however, said there would be more clarity once the party’s manifesto was released.

Ms. Naik said arguments against reservation in private sector were not sustainable in a context where more jobs were being generated in the private sector rather than in the government sector. She, however, said there should be checks and balances to ensure that reservation had a wide reach within Dalits and backward communities. “It should not keep on benefitting only a small section of people that is already a beneficiary. It should percolate down to the most deserving,” she said.

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