Home » Politics » Modi's 'jumla' nailed: how the BJP tampered with reservations in the past

Modi's 'jumla' nailed: how the BJP tampered with reservations in the past

Bharat Bhushan | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 6:52 IST

The claim

  • Narendra Modi claims that BJP has never tinkered with reservations
  • He asserted this during a number of election rallies in Bihar
  • Clearly this is aimed at assuaging the OBCs and Dalits

The untruth

  • Modi is wrong. The BJP government in UP tried to dilute reservations in 2001
  • This was when Rajnath Singh was the CM

More in the story

  • What exactly was Rajnath\'s plan?
  • Which castes did it harm?
  • Why did the plan fail?
  • Do BJP and RSS want to change the reservation policy?

Amit Shah, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claims that when political leaders speak in public meetings, they often become "emotional" and that "their statements should not be taken with full stop, comma and all."

How then should one understand Prime Minister Narendra Modi's repeated claim that BJP governments have never tinkered with reservations, during his election rallies in Bihar?

His declaration that no BJP government has ever diluted the reservations policy nor will it do so in future, is as blatant an untruth as one can get, with or without commas and full stops.

Rajnath Singh's move

In 2001, in Uttar Pradesh the BJP government led by the then Chief Minister Rajnath Singh tried to dilute and change the existing reservations policy. The measures tried to create fissures within the OBCs and the Scheduled Castes by sub-dividing the reservations quotas by creating sub-groups.

This was not to separate the "creamy layer" based on income but an attempt to reduce the reservation quota of some castes as a whole - without allowing for economic differences within them - because they were perceived to be disproportionate beneficiaries of reservations.

However, before the BJP could reap political dividends in UP elections by curtailing the reservations of some, Rajnath Singh's plans were thwarted by the judiciary.

The Supreme Court stepped in to quash the UP government's attempts to tinker with the reservations policy.

The Rajnath headed government of UP, had tried to fix the reservation for "Yadavs, Ahirs and Yadvanshis" to 5% within the 27% OBC quota and that of "Jatavs, Chamars and Dhusias" to 10% within the 21% Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes quota. The reservation for the Scheduled tribes in the state was reduced from 2% to 1% so that the overall reservations quota remained at 50%.

This controversial move, struck down by the apex court is listed as one of the main achievements of Rajnath Singh as the UP Chief Minister on his personal website. Perhaps Modi needs to look at it before claiming that BJP governments have never messed around with reservations policy because it was a gift of Dr BR Ambedkar to the nation.

In June 2001, Rajnath Singh had set up a body called "Samajik Nyaya Samiti" with his Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Hukum Singh as president and the Health Minister, Ramapati Shastri and an MLC Dayaram Pal as members. The committee was tasked with inquiring whether the benefits of reservations were reaching the intended beneficiaries. It was also asked to recommend amendments in the reservations policy.

This was a part of the BJP's effort to set right 'flaws in the reservation system'. The "Samajik Nyaya Samiti" or Social Justice Committee submitted its report within 60 days of formation. The BJP then pretended to get public feedback through a Social Justice Week (celebrated between 30 July to 6 August, 2001) and simultaneously ordered a survey of caste-based representation in state government jobs.

Modi has claimed that BJP never tinkered with reservations. This is a blatant untruth

After hastily conducted surveys and "public consultation", it was declared that the major benefits of reservation were going to the dominant OBCs (Yadavs, primarily) and the dominant SCs (Jatavs, Chamars and Dhusias).

This was the situation that the BJP wanted to change - interestingly, the affected castes were not committed voters of the BJP.

For instance, Jatavs and Chamars have been steadfastly behind Mayawati's BSP while Yadavs have tended to support the Samajwadi Party. In contrast the BJP placed some of its tradtional supporters - like Lodhs, Gujjars and Jats - in the favourable Most Backward OBC category.

Rajnath Singh decided to subdivide the OBCs into three categories and the SCs into two categories before the next state assembly election. Based on the report of the Social Justice Committee, the government published an Extra-ordinary Gazette Notification to this effect on 15 September 2001 subdividing the reservations quota prevalent in the country.

Dividing the categories

Under the BJP's scheme in UP, the OBCs were divided into "Backward, More Backward and Most Backward" OBCs. They were given separate sub-quotas: 5% for Backward (Yadavs, Ahirs, Gwalas and Yaduvansis); 9% for "More Backward" OBCs (Sonars, Swarnakars, Jats, Kurmis, Patels, Giris, Gujjars, Gosains, Lodhs, Lodhis, Kambojs); and the remaining 14% to the residual 70 castes of "Most Backward" OBCs.

The SCs were divided into sub-Categories A and B. Category A which consisted of Chamars, Dhusias and Jatavs was assigned 10% reservation and Category B comprising the remaining 65 scheduled castes of UP were given 11% reservation.

In the case of the STs, it was argued that their reservation quota should be brought down from 2% in the state to 1% in keeping with the fall in their share of the state's population after the creation of Uttarakhand.

After issuing a notification changing the existing reservations policy, the Rajnath government first passed an ordinance. This was done despite more than 30 legislators of the party voicing their dissatisfaction with the move. Rajnath Singh's minister for Tourism and Revenue, Ashok Yadav, resigned from the government.

In 2001, the Rajnath govt in UP tried to divide the SC and OBC quota and reduced the share of STs

Then on 15 October 2001 the government pushed through the UP Public Service (Reservation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes) Amendment Act in the state assembly. About 20,000 vacancies were "identified" after the Act was passed and the government proceeded to fill them according to its new policy.

The actions of the BJP state government were challenged in the Supreme Court by former UP minister Ashok Yadav through his "Akhil Bharatvarshiya Chatra Yuva Berozgar Front". They claimed that the state government had acted unconstitutionally and it had no power to set up a committee to review reservations.

They urged the apex court to declare the UP government's new law "ultra vires" under the Constitution, claiming that it was enacted by the BJP-led state government to get ``political mileage'' during the Assembly polls. The Constitution of India, it was argued, does not permit the subdivision of SC/STs into categories.

The case was heard by the then Chief Justice of India SP Bharucha, Justice Shivraj V Patil and Justice Arijit Pasayat. The court stayed the implementation of the Act observing that "the entire exercise seems to be done in a hurry" and stayed any appointments under the new law. The court also observed that no review of the reservations policy could be undertaken without the permission of the National Backward Classes Commission.

The revision of policy by the UP government became infructuous. In the next election, when Mayawati became the chief minister she withdrew the amendment to the reservations law.

How Nitish managed it differently

Rajnath Singh's attempt to change the reservation scheme for the OBCs and the SC/STs, must not, however, be confused with the creation of Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs), Mahadalit or Pasmanda Muslim categories that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar created. Unlike Rajnath Singh, Nitish Kumar did not change the constitutional reservation scheme for the OBCs at all - he only used these categories of extreme backwardness to ensure that these groups became targeted beneficiaries of the state government's social sector schemes.

The BJP's obsession with recasting "social justice" continues till today. When Rajnath Singh became party president, he rechristened the Backward Classes Cell of the party as "Samajik Nyaya Morcha".

In UP, the BJP's quota plan would have reduced the share of castes like Yadavs, Jatavs and Chamars

RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat's constant refrain about reviewing the reservations policy is the result of the ideological obsession that there should be no caste-based reservations. The RSS and the BJP both want reservations based on economic criterion for reservations.

Therefore, Modi's election statements about never having changed or never ever wanting to change the reservations policy should be taken only for what Amit Shah in his inimitable style has described as nothing more than a "jumla" - mere words, not to be taken seriously.

First published: 27 October 2015, 4:32 IST
Bharat Bhushan @Bharatitis

Editor of Catch News, Bharat has been a hack for 25 years. He has been the founding Editor of Mail Today, Executive Editor of the Hindustan Times, Editor of The Telegraph in Delhi, Editor of the Express News Service, Washington Correspondent of the Indian Express and an Assistant Editor with The Times of India.