RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat wants to now ‘discuss’ India’s reservation policy, this, while the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government is planning to implement a ‘quota within quota’ system. With an eye on the assembly elections in 2022, the move will be a win-win for both the BJP and the deprived communities of the state.
Last year, the Uttar Pradesh government had formed a committee to plan the new reservation system. The committee had recommended trifurcating the reservations for the OBC category – 7 per cent reservation for castes like Kurmi, Yadav and Chaurasiya, 11 per cent for Kushwaha, Shakya, Teli, Gujjar, Mali castes, and 9 per cent for Rajbhar, Mallah, Bind, Ghosi and other backward castes.
It was seen as a plan to consolidate the votes of the Most Backward Castes (MBCs), and break the caste alliance of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
For the Scheduled Castes, the Yogi Adityanath government did not make a new committee and is planning to implement the recommendations of the Hukum Singh Committee, which was formed when Rajnath Singh was the UP chief minister. It recommended dividing the Scheduled Castes into two categories – with 10 per cent and 11 per cent reservation each.
Social justice politics
This is the second phase of social justice politics in Uttar Pradesh. It indicates that in the post-Mandal era, a new social justice politics is going to take shape in Uttar Pradesh.
Similar policies have already been implemented in states like Tamil Nadu and Bihar, but the UP experiment with ‘quota within quota’ may inspire other Indian states to go on a similar path.
A few political analysts are raising doubts on the implementation of such policies and see legality as a hurdle in its implementation. But I have heard that the Yogi government has already done sufficient background research for its implementation.
The government has already held meetings with leaders of most backward and most marginal Dalit communities and alerted them of the move. Most Backward Class (MBC) BJP leader Anil Rajbhar, who has now been inducted into the Yogi cabinet, is helping the government reach out to other MBC leaders and convincing them to support the ‘quota within quota’ proposal. Yogi Adityanath told them to be vocal and defend this bill in the assembly and on the streets. A team of bureaucrats and government legal counsels have already made plans if the matter goes to the court at any stage.
The planning department of UP, social justice department and the state planning commission have already provided available data to the bureaucrats who are working to prepare this bill. So, the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government has already made political, legal and administrative preparation.
Re-distributing reservation benefits
These categories under OBC and SC groups will be created to equitably re-distribute reservation benefits. While some castes and OBCs have benefitted from the reservation system, others still lag behind. Which is perhaps why the Yogi Adityanath government included 17 OBCs in the Scheduled Castes list in June. The move came in response to a long-standing demand of these caste groups.
Various studies show that in both the SCs and the OBCs, large sections remain invisible and have not yet been able to acquire the benefits of state opportunities. These opportunities are being hoarded by a few dominant and influential castes. They acquired the capacity to aspire and became important politically. But most of the OBC and Dalit castes and sub-castes have not been able to do so. They have not been able to get their share in these almost homogeneous OBC and SC categories, that were created based on colonial relics of social data and policies.
It is true that this measure by the Yogi government is not going to end poverty or ensure equality, but it is also true that such measures help in the dissemination of democratic resources to the most marginalised.
BJP’s political gain
Politically speaking, ‘quota within quota’ will help the BJP bring non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav SCs in its fold.
A larger-section of the Kurmi caste, which is identified as a developed OBC group in this policy scheme, already sympathises with the BJP.
The Yadavs, who form the Samajwadi Party’s vote base, will be angry with this policy, but the BJP knows they are anyway unlikely to vote for it.
The non-Yadavs among the OBCs form a major voting block and this policy may solidify their support for the BJP in the state. Similarly, the non-Jatav castes among the SCs can together make the Jatav votebank irrelevant and up BJP’s winnability factor in the coming elections.
This move will give the BJP an upper hand over the SP and the BSP in the state.
It will also help the BJP influence Om Prakash Rajbhar-led Suhaldev Bharatiya Samaj Party. The party has, in the past, accused the BJP government of not implementing the Samajik Nyay Samiti Report, which advised for ‘quota within quota’ system for communities like the Rajbhar. This political act will help the BJP draw the Rajbhar vote.
The ‘quota within quota’ policy will lead to three things.
First, it will create a political fracture in OBC and SC categories and help the BJP erode SP and BSP voter base. Second, at the social level, it will help MBC and most marginalised Dalits become vocal and assertive, thanks to their newfound political capital. Third, a section of these invisible and silent social communities will get their own share of jobs, education and be beneficiaries of development schemes.
The author is the director of the GB Pant Social Science Institute. Views are personal.