Trying to stitch together a winnable caste combination in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress Saturday tried to woo the most backward castes (MBCs), promising to carve out a special quota for them within the 27 per cent OBC quota if voted to power.
AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad said the promise would be included in the party’s manifesto for the assembly polls. This is not the first time that the Congress has made such a promise. Its manifesto for the 2012 UP assembly polls had promised a sub-quota for Ati Dalits within Scheduled Castes as well as a sub-quota for MBCs. It had also promised to consider a sub-quota for economically backward minorities. But the promises did not make any electoral impact.
The party on Saturday revived the idea, hoping it would strike a chord with the MBCs and extreme backward castes (EBCs) who, it believes, nurse a feeling that the benefits of the 27 per cent OBC quota have not reached them and have only been shared by one or two numerically dominant backward castes.
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The idea is to reach out to the non-Yadav, non-Kurmi backward castes, which is a significant population in UP. The party has zeroed in on 75-odd such castes. Having reached out to the Brahmin community, projecting Sheila Dikshit as the chief ministerial face and holding Brahmin meetings, the Congress hopes to stitch together a coalition of Brahmin, non-Yadav OBC and Muslim vote base.
In Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has successfully created a vote bank by distinguishing between the backwards and most backwards, and Dalits and Mahadalits.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi interacted with around 150 leaders of MBCs from across the state at the AICC headquarters on Saturday, after which Azad said that the Congress manifesto would promise “reservation within reservation” for MBCs and EBCs. But he did not reveal how much of the 27 per cent reservation for the backwards will be promised to the MBCs.
Azad said Rahul told the leaders that Congress governments had enacted legislations for providing reservation within reservation in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Haryana. Azad named several castes which stand to benefit from reservation within reservation and added that the move would also benefit de-notified tribes.