While opposition parties have called the proposed law to carve out a 10-per cent quota for economically weaker families in general category as a decision with an eye on Lok Sabha polls, even while they welcomed the idea per se, most NDA allies in Hindi heartland states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh gave it a thumbs up.
Both key allies in Bihar — Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) — backed the quota Bill, while in UP, Ashish Patel, president of Apna Dal (S), an ally in the state, welcomed the move, but at the same time said no one should play around with reservation for backward classes.
Criticism came from Arun Rajbhar, general secretary and spokesperson for Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), another ally in the state, but one that is sulking of late.
Calling the move as merely an attempt to correct the damage done by the amendment to SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and that it is nothing but an illusion, Rajbhar said, “Sare-chaar saal kya kar rahe thhe? Itna aasaan thhodi-na hoga. Rajya Sabha mein majority nahi hai, Supreme Court chala jayega, Constitutional amendment karna hoga. Sabhi mukhyamantriyon ki sehmati (leni) hogi, ati-picharon ko arakshan de nahi paye… (What was the government doing for four-and-a-half years? Implementing this isn’t going to be easy — the government does not have majority in Rajya Sabha, this needs Constitutional amendment, all chief ministers’ consent; you couldn’t give reservation to the extremely backward…).”
The JD(U), which is desperately trying to win over upper caste voters after the party’s return to NDA, welcomed it. “Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has been travelling with LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, broke the news (about the government’s approval) to the two leaders. We are surely very happy,” a source in JD(U) said.
Party’s national spokesperson K C Tyagi said, “Then Prime Minister V P Singh had first come up with idea of giving quota to the poor among upper castes, but he could not implement it. It is a historic move by the Narendra Modi government — better late than never. Opposing it will be political harakiri for any party.”
JD(U) spokesperson in Bihar Neeraj Kumar said, “Our government (in Bihar) set up Upper Caste Commission, which conducted sample survey of 10,000 people from among upper-caste Hindus — Rajputs, Bhumihars, Brahmins and Kayasthas — and Sheikhs, Syeds and Pathans among Muslims. The government implemented the Commission’s recommendations to give education benefits (scholarship and student credit card and Indira Awas yojana and social pension benefits) to people from upper castes.”
LJP chief and Union minister Paswan said: “I have always been in favour of quota for the poor among upper castes, as their land-holding kept shrinking and they need government’s support. The decision is a big step forward.”
The LJP, which receives around 5 to 7 per cent votes in the state, nurses upper caste voters as well. Two of the party’s six Lok Sabha MPs are from upper caste communities.
But SBSP’s Rajbhar said, “It is clear that the BJP has done it (bring this constitutional amendment Bill) just to correct the damage done by bringing in the SC/ST Act amendment, which led to their defeat in three states (Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan). The BJP wants to send a message that bring us back (in Lok Sabha polls) and we will give you reservation — everyone knows it cannot be done by the present government; is mere illusion.”
But, he asked, “is everyone sure that Modi will return to power? Are there any jobs in UP? Who is heading top institutions in the country? Will the creamy layer among OBC and Dalit communities leave their benefits to children of the most backward?”