A new calculation in Uttar Pradesh

Print edition : September 15, 2001

Chief Minister Rajnath Singh is all set to implement the new reservation scheme, which is aimed at weakening the BJP's rivals and winning the next round of Assembly elections.

A NEW chapter in the politics of reservation was opened by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Rajnath Singh when he declared that the recommendations of the government-appointed Social Justice Committee would be implemented before October 1. The committee, which was entrusted with the task of carrying out a caste-based census in the State in order to decide the quantum of reservation for the most backward sections among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Dalits, submitted its report on August 31. It is clear from the 200-page report that the entire exercise of caste enumeration was aimed at weakening the support base of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's major rivals in U.P. - the Samajwadi Party (S.P.) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Hukum Singh (left), Chairman of the Social Justice Committee, presents the committee's report to Chief Minister Rajnath Singh.-

Constituted on June 28, the committee completed its work in a record period of two months. It has recommended restriction of the quantum of reservation for the Yadavs and the Jatavs, who form the core constituencies of the S.P. and the BSP, to a meagre 5 and 10 per cent respectively. It has categorised Dalits into two schedules: Schedule A comprising Chamars, Jatavs and Dhusias, and Schedule B comprising 65 other castes in the Dalit category. Of the 21 per cent reservation available for Dalits, the committee has recommended the reservation of 10 per cent for the castes in Schedule A and 11 per cent for those in Schedule B. The castes in Schedule A form the traditional support base of the BSP. Although they constitute only about 50 per cent of the Dalit population in the State, they have been enjoying almost 80 per cent of the benefits of reservation owing to their comparatively well-off status and the patronage of leaders such as former BSP Chief Minister Mayawati. Since these communities have in general never voted for the BJP, the party will not be affected by their resentment against the committee's report.

The committee has categorised the OBCs into three schedules and recommended an increase in their share of reservation from 27 per cent to 28 per cent. Schedule A, titled "The backward castes", comprises Yadavs and Ahirs. The quantum of reservation recommended for this category is 5 per cent. Schedule B comprises eight castes, including the politically and financially strong Jats, Kurmis, Lodhs and Gujars, who have been categorised as most backward castes. The committee has recommended 9 per cent reservation for this category. Schedule C comprises 70 "extremely backward castes", including 22 backward castes in the Muslim community. It has suggested 14 per cent reservation for the castes in Schedule C.

The committee has also suggested that the reservation for the Scheduled Tribes be reduced from 2 per cent to 0.06 per cent since their population in U.P. has fallen considerably after the formation of Uttaranchal. The S.Ts comprise 1 per cent of the population of U.P. The committee has recommended the exclusion of the dependents of Class 1 and 2 employees of the Central and State governments from the benefits of the reservation for the S.Cs and the S.Ts. Similarly, it has recommended the application of the creamy layer concept in reservation for the OBCs. It has, however, suggested that the annual income limit for the creamy layer category be increased from Rs.1 lakh to Rs.3 lakhs. Significantly, the committee has recommended 5 per cent reservation for those below the poverty line among the upper castes too.

Talking to Frontline, Rajnath Singh said that he was determined to implement the new reservation policy before October 1 irrespective of the opposition from the OBC members of his party. He said: "I will place the report for discussion in the Council of Ministers before September 15 and it will be implemented by October. About 50,000 vacancies will be filled under the new reservation formula in October. Appointment letters will be issued in October itself." He said that he would not tolerate any opposition to this policy and anybody in the government criticising it would face disciplinary action. "I am doing this as per the party's policy on social justice. I have the full support and consent of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, party president Jana Krishnamurthy, Home Minister L.K. Advani and senior leader Kushabhau Thakre. There will be no delay in its implementation."

The committee's recommendations, he said, were fair because they were in keeping with the percentages of various communities in the population. "I have not cut anybody's share. I have only equitably redistributed the share of various castes," he said, refuting charges that the recommendations were biased against Yadavs and Jatavs. "Yadavs form only 19 per cent of the OBC population, and yet they were enjoying the majority of reservation benefits. Similarly, Jatavs form only 50 per cent of the Dalit population, and yet they were getting the lion's share in the reservation. Was it fair that they were hogging all the benefits so far, denying others their due?" he asked. The Chief Minister does not think that the implementation of the report would lead to social tension in the villages. "We shall ensure that there is no tension," he said.

Rajnath Singh made no secret of his hope to derive political benefits from the report. "Over 54 per cent of U.P.'s population will benefit as a result of the new policy. More than 50 per cent of backward Muslims are covered. This will certainly give us electoral benefits. We shall form the government in Uttar Pradesh," he said.

He, however, hastened to add that the new reservation policy was not a part of the battle for votes. "This is a fight for social justice. It is a social and ideological fight for us. I will not indulge in casteist or communal politics and neither will I allow anyone else to do so," he declared.

Rajnath Singh's optimism about the BJP forming the next government in the State is apparently based on intelligence reports and feedback from some "independent professional" agencies. "According to feedback we got two months ago, the BJP alone will win 135-140 seats. Now, after this (the quota policy), I would not be surprised if we crossed the 200-mark," he said.

His optimism stems from the arithmetic of castes. The most backward castes among the OBCs other than Yadavs and Kurmis constitute roughly 26 per cent of the population of U.P., and the most backward sections among Dalits form over 6 per cent. If the combined strength of these sections is added to that of the upper castes, who form nearly 20 per cent of the population and have been voting for the BJP consistently, the picture looks good for the party. The BJP's plan is to woo the most backward sections among the OBCs and Dalits - the sections that have not shown so far any affiliation to a particular party in U.P.

THE Opposition's reaction to the new reservation scheme is one of suppressed fury. The S.P. and the BSP find themselves in a bind because any expression of support to the policy will alienate their vote banks and any opposition might erode whatever base they have among the most backward castes. Mayawati has described the new formula as an "election gimmick" aimed at fooling the backward castes. "If they are really serious about the welfare of the most backward castes, they should give reservation according to the population of these castes and increase the reservation for the OBCs to 54 per cent and 26 per cent for Dalits," she said. The new formula, according to her, only exposed the BJP's manuwadi policy of "divide and rule".

The S.P. too has reacted in a cautious manner. Describing the new policy as an eyewash, the S.P. said that it would deprive the needy of the benefits of reservation. Party general secretary Shivpal Singh Yadav said: "If the BJP is really serious about giving reservation to the most backward, it should increase the reservation for the OBCs to 54 per cent."

The OBC leaders in the BJP, such as Irrigation and Higher Education Minister Om Prakash Singh, Cooperation Minister Ram Kumar Varma Patel, Tourism Minister Ashok Yadav and party vice-president Vinay Katiyar, who had warned of a revolt if the policy was implemented have not reacted to Rajnath Singh's announcement. It was not clear whether the Chief Minister's warning that anybody speaking against the government's policy would face disciplinary action had the desired effect. Sources close to these leaders said that they were working out a new strategy. Indications, however, are that the Chief Minister has won the first round.

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