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Congress is not anti-OBC. One Rajiv Gandhi speech is used to cancel out all pro-quota steps

Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s letter to PM Modi about OBC reservations in educational institutions is only the latest instance of her party’s bid for inclusion.

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The Congress’ politics of late has put special emphasis on the Other Backward Classes. When the party won the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in December 2018, it appointed two chief ministers from the OBC category – Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, and Bhupesh Baghel in Chhattisgarh. Congress’ general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has become dependent on OBCs in Uttar Pradesh’s politics. In her state team of one party president and five vice presidents, two belong to the backward classes and one to a Scheduled Caste. Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating that the OBC category is not being given the benefit of reservation under all-India quota for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test.

Historically, the Congress has been considered to be against reservations for backward classes. Rajiv Gandhi’s Lok Sabha speech in September 1990, in which he opposed the Mandal Commission’s report, has been referred to time and again in this context.

Considering this, it is important to understand whether the Congress has been actually against backward classes or reservations. That the Congress has not been opposed to OBCs and reservation for them can be inferred from the following arguments.

Constitutional amendment for reservation

The first amendment to the Constitution of India came in 1951. In Tamil Nadu, there were some court judgments that held reservations as against Article 15(2) of the Constitution, which accords every citizen the right to equality. The courts also cited Article 29(2), which states that no citizen can be denied admission in any educational institution on the basis of religion, caste, community, or language. It was argued that granting reservation was against the rights granted to minorities under Article 29 of the Constitution.

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the first amendment and dispelled this confusion. Article 15 (4) was appended to the Fundamental Rights, in which it was clarified that this article or Article 29 (2) did not go against the provisions made for the benefit of socially and educationally backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Nehru’s statement in parliament on 10 May 1951 illustrates this.

It should also not be forgotten that the Constituent Assembly, which had introduced the system of reservation into the Constitution, had the largest number of Congress members.

Also read: RSS in 2015, SC in 2020 — quota row hits Bihar polls again but here’s why BJP isn’t worried

Kaka Kalelkar Commission and Nehru

The second allegation levelled against Nehru is that he supposedly suppressed the recommendations of the first Backward Classes Commission, constituted under the chairmanship of journalist and social reformer Kaka Kalelkar. According to Article 340 of the Constitution, the Kaka Kalelkar Commission was formed on 29 January 1953. The commission presented its report on 30 March 1955.

Discussions about the report went on for six years, until it was rejected in 1961. In reality, the Kaka Kalelkar Commission had only one member of the Backward Classes Commission — Barrister Shivdayal Singh Chaurasia, who wrote an 84-page note of dissent. The upper caste members of the commission wanted to select other backward classes on the basis of their economic condition.

Chaurasia believed that since discrimination had been perpetrated on the grounds of caste, the identity of backward classes should also be established on the basis of caste. There was so much controversy over the report that Kalelkar wrote a script that led to the suspicion he was not in favour of the implementation of the report.

After that, Jawaharlal Nehru decided that state governments should identify backward classes at their level, and give them appropriate facilities to bring them into the mainstream. Not long after, in 1964, Nehru passed away. So, it cannot be said that Nehru was not a supporter of OBC reservation. It was based on the constitutional amendment made in 1951 that states implemented OBC reservation, and the Mandal Commission report was implemented at the Centre.

Also read: How Modi-Shah’s BJP is becoming a victim of their OBC reservation plot

Mandal Commission and Indira Gandhi

After the Emergency, the Congress lost power at the Centre. The Janata Party came into power, and Prime Minister Morarji Desai formed the Mandal Commission on 21 March 1979, under the chairmanship of Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal. By the time the Commission could prepare its report, the Janata Party government had collapsed.

Election was held and the Congress came back to power, with Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister. She neither dissolved the Commission nor obstructed their work. In fact, during Indira Gandhi’s term, the tenure of the Commission was extended twice — once from April 1 to 30 September 1980, and again from October 1 to 31 December 1980. The Commission submitted its report to Congress leader and Home Minister Giani Zail Singh on 31 December.

B.P. Mandal expressed gratitude towards Indira Gandhi while submitting the report. There was no debate on the report. It cannot be denied that Indira Gandhi managed to get the report prepared during her term in office. However, it is also true that the report could not be implemented during her tenure, or during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure.

Also read: Eye on Bihar polls, Modi govt moves to hike OBC creamy layer income ceiling to Rs 12 lakh

Implementing the Mandal Commission report

The actual implementation of the recommendations of the Mandal Commission happened during Narasimha Rao’s term.

The Congress lost the Lok Sabha election in 1989. Keeping to their promise, the National Front government led by Vishwanath Pratap Singh implemented the recommendations of the Mandal Commission. This was debated in Parliament.

Rajiv Gandhi, as the Leader of the Opposition, opposed the implementation of the report. He alleged that there were several factual flaws, and called the report incomplete. However, this had little impact. All the leaders of the Congress who belonged to backward classes, including Sitaram Kesri, hailed the implementation of the Mandal Commission report outside Parliament. The case went to the Supreme Court. Election was held in 1991 and the Congress formed the government under the leadership of P.V. Narasimha Rao.

The government appealed before the Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of reservations on 16 November 1992. The Congress government issued a notification on 8 September 1993 regarding the implementation of the report. The delay was caused by the time taken to set the parameters for the identification of the creamy layer, which the court had decided to exclude from the OBC reservation.

Those standards were flexible till now. But the Narendra Modi government is preparing to change this, such that a large section of OBCs can only get jobs on the basis of their economic conditions, while giving 10 per cent reservation to upper castes.

Also read: Reservation not a fundamental right: SC on plea for OBC quota in Tamil Nadu medical courses

Reservation for OBCs in higher education

The Mandal Commission’s recommendation of keeping reservations in jobs was implemented, but there was no provision for reservations for OBCs in central educational institutions. During the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-1 rule, Arjun Singh became the Minister of Human Resource Development. He wrote several letters to Sonia Gandhi to explain why OBC reservation in educational institutions was necessary. On 21 August 2007, the Congress government passed a proposal to provide reservation to SCs, STs and OBCs in central educational institutions.

Following a court case, the law eventually came into force, paving way for the admission of oppressed groups in all well-known universities of the country, including the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indian Institute of Management (IIM), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The Congress had to face a lot of opposition during this period, and its credibility among the middle class also took a hit.

Also read: Fear of quota claims, ‘need to save secular state’ — why caste never made it to the census

Reservation in the private sector

With the opening up of the economy and the introduction of privatisation, many jobs were being created in the private sector. During Manmohan Singh’s tenure as Prime Minister, the demand for reservation in the private sector arose. At the annual meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in 2006, Singh said if the industrial sector did not take ambitious, affirmative strides towards the betterment of the deprived sections, he would be forced to introduce reservation in jobs in the private sector.

A task force was then constituted, under the chairmanship of Jamshed J. Irani, which submitted a report stating that the private sector would promise representation to people from SC and ST communities at all levels. It said that large-scale companies would support a person from SC/ST communities every year, so that hundreds of new entrepreneurs could be created. (Mandal Commission)

This was the first important step towards providing reservations to the backward classes in the private sector undertaken during Congress rule.

The pace at which rights were granted to the underprivileged has indeed been very slow under Congress governments. However, it would be wrong to say that nothing was done for SC, ST, and OBC communities. The Congress, like many other parties, is not an OBC party. It is an all-inclusive party. Whatever its shortcomings, the Congress has listened to the voices of SC, ST and OBC communities.

The author is a political analyst. Views are personal.

Also read: Congress’ Jitin Prasada launches Brahmin body, blames Yogi govt for ‘step-motherly treatment’

This article has been translated from Hindi. Read the original here.

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  1. Why is The Print seeking subscriptions from us when it regularly publishing articles that look like they are commissioned by Congress? Please ask the political party first.

  2. congress has had a very apt reason to ignore a nd reject the obc community. becaause it was not dependent on obc votes. its winning formula muslim, harijan and the forward castes. so very obviously it never promoted and safeguarded the obc rights.

  3. The Maa Beta of the first Parivaar will be in jail very soon. The Enforcement Directorate is hot on their trail. Now its only a matter of time. That MoU with Communist Party China and Chinese money into private trusts will prove very costly for these corrupt people.
    Money laundering, corruption, land grabbing, crime, anti-national activities …… what a fantastic list of achievements.

  4. After losing credibility by speaking in China’s voice, the Congress is now trying to divert attention from their failures.
    Why is that Duffer Prince Dynast suddenly silent now?

  5. Congress should reserve the President’s post for an OBC. That’ll show us how true Congress is to its preachings.
    It is easy to divide and rule but difficult to unite.
    BJP is a unifier under Modi-Shah

  6. Shame on this article ! Congress has destroyed our country. Their Lust of power and money kept the poor to remain poor. Just vote bank politics ! People of India have awaken, leftists cannot do anything except writing such articles.

  7. Congress’s Achievement: Looting for 60 years.
    BeeJayPee’s Biggest Achievement: Looting double that sum of money within a matter of six years.

    Congress = We have just one family that loots.
    BeeJayPee = We are one large family of looters.
    *** O Gullible People of India, judge for yourself which kind of looter you would prefer, or perhaps you could do very well without a ‘Government’. Gone are those days when a POLITICIAN could be trusted. Perhaps in future it would be better to live without the presence of a Government !

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