Even as the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) awaits Constitutional status, the idea of sub-categorisation among OBCs appears to have emerged as an item on the Government’s “future agenda”, sources told The Indian Express.
The idea is still at a “very nascent stage” but has received attention at the top levels of the Government, said sources with knowledge of the ruling establishment’s line on this issue.
“There are two potential ways to explore it. Either through a commission for sub-categorisation/classification on a socio-economic basis within OBCs or by re-constituting the NCBC with a term of reference for sub-classification,” said sources, referring to the ideas being considered at the moment.
Currently, there is no sub-categorisation among OBCs at the national level. However, states, such as Bihar, have a quota within quota for OBCs based on sub-categories. An earlier attempt to provide sub-quotas for minorities among OBCs in Andhra Pradesh, before Telangana was carved out, was stalled by courts on the ground that religion-based quota is not permitted.
Against this backdrop, the proposed sub-categorisation at the national level could be the most radical move since the V P Singh government accepted the Mandal Commission’s recommendations in 1989.
A quota within quota is considered to be the next stage — Mandal 2.0 — of reservation for OBCs to ensure that the benefits are distributed fairly among constituent castes instead of going only to a few dominant ones.
The idea is gaining traction within the Government after the Congress and other Opposition parties derailed the legislation to grant Constitutional status to NCBC in the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session.
However, the move is fraught with political risk as regional parties championing the interests of dominant OBC castes are likely to oppose such sub-categorisation. On the other hand, it would suit the BJP’s electoral gambit to woo extremely backward castes (EBCs) as a permanent support base.
During the UP assembly elections this year, non-dominant OBCs had demonstrated their willingness to side with the BJP. In Bihar, the EBCs had turned away from Lalu Prasad’s RJD and rallied behind the JD(U). With Nitish Kumar closing ranks with the BJP once again, the BJP has got a fresh opportunity to create an appeal for itself among EBCs in Bihar. The BJP has also rallied its politics in Haryana around non-dominant OBCs. BJP’s biggest electoral bet — Prime Minister Narendra Modi — too, hails from among non-dominant OBCs.
Apart from garnering their electoral support, Modi has quietly moved to deepen his party’s appeal among OBCs.
For instance, he raised the cap for the OBC creamy layer from Rs 6 lakh per annum to Rs 8 lakh per annum while marking the completion of his government’s three years in office in May.
The move to grant Constitutional status to NCBC was another such move. However, the legislation went off track after the Opposition pressed for a number of amendments, forcing the Government to wait for the winter session of Parliament. With the Gujarat assembly elections likely around that period, the Government doesn’t expect much cooperation from the Opposition on this legislation.