Congress does a BJP in Uttarakhand: pushes for upper-caste quota
- Uttarakhand government has requested for 10% reservation for the poor among upper castes
- In May the Gujarat government had notified of the same in educational institutions and state jobs
- The problems with reservations for the EBCs
- How do other castes feel about this reservation?
Uttarakhand has become perhaps the first Congress-led state in the country to officially adopt the principle of reservations for upper castes.
Uttarakhand Assembly on 22 July passed a resolution demanding reservation for the economically weak among forward castes. The resolution asks the Centre to create provisions for guaranteeing reservations for the poor among the upper castes.
Chief Minister Harish Rawat informed later that his government will request the Centre to give at least 10% reservation under these provisions.
In May, the BJP-led Gujarat government had notified its decision to ensure 10% quota in educational institutions and state jobs for those in the general category with an annual income of up to Rs 6 lakh.
Several petitions were subsequently filed in the Gujarat High Court, challenging the provision. On 18 July, the High Court concluded the hearing and reserved its verdict on the petitions.
Significantly, Gujarat Congress supported the underlying principle of quotas for upper castes and also announced that if the party comes to power in the state, it will raise the quota to 20%.
The Rawat-government has taken the lead among all Congress governments in adopting the idea and is pushing for it. Uttarakhand is scheduled to go to polls early next year and the favour of its nearly 80% upper caste voters are crucial for victory.
Impact in UP too
The party's unit in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh is also likely to take a cue from it. Upper-caste Congressmen in the state are reportedly pitching for the inclusion of a similar promise in the party's manifesto for the state assembly elections, also due next year.
Upper castes are said to comprise nearly 20% of the entire population of the state.
The Congress' choice for its chief ministerial candidate, Sheila Dikshit, was married into a Brahmin family of UP, although she is a Punjabi-Khatri by birth.
The problem with quotas for the poor among the upper castes is two-fold.First, they eat into the seats already reserved for the SCs, STs and OBCs, if they are implemented over and above the existing quotas.
In Gujarat, for example, the new EBC quota is in addition to the 49% quota for the SCs, STs and OBCs.
The Patidars had rejected EBC status under this provision because it would have reduced their quota to 10% as against the 27% pie they would have got as a part of the OBCs.
It also violates the Supreme Court-mandated cap of 50% seats under quotas.
Secondly, many pro-quota activists and scholars argue that reservations are essentially a tool for ensuring representation of the downtrodden, it is not a poverty-alleviation programme.
Nevertheless, the concept appears to be gaining traction across the political divide, with both the BJP and the Congress rallying on the same side.
How this debate shapes up and impacts society at large will be interesting to watch.