The Congress manifesto committee is debating the proposal as a section of the party finds idea feasible, citing BJP’s breach of 50 per cent quota cap.
New Delhi: The Congress is contemplating promising reservation to the Other Backward Classes proportionate to their population in its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The party has received the suggestion from a number of experts and think-tanks, a senior Congress leader said, adding that its manifesto committee is now examining it.
There is a belief in the Congress that the Modi government’s 10 per cent quota for ‘poor’ upper castes has angered OBCs and the party is debating the idea as a way of cashing in on the discontent.
“Now that the BJP has altered that 50 per cent quota cap by its 10 per cent reservation for the upper caste poor, why can’t all OBCs be given reservation is what is being asked by a number of experts,” said the senior Congress leader requesting anonymity. “We have received their suggestions and are examining them.”
The Congress, however, will have trouble determining the OBC numbers.
The Mandal commission, which had relied on the 1932 caste census, had pegged the OBC numbers at 52 per cent of the total population. It was based on this that the OBCs have been provided reservation of 27 per cent.
A survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2006 put the OBC population in the country at 40.94 per cent in 2004-05.
In the last Parliament session, however, a number of OBC leaders had claimed that their population had gone up to 54 per cent.
An attempt to woo OBCs
The Congress’ manifesto committee and its research wing have been holding consultations with experts, intellectuals and NGOs who have been working for the welfare of OBCs.
The expert groups have recommended that the government should put in place an appropriate institutional mechanism to ensure all sub-categories of OBCs enjoy equal access to the benefits of reservations.
The OBCs are considered a major vote-bank and have shifted loyalties to the BJP in the recent past. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a large number of non-OBC Yadavs had swung the race in favour of Modi. They continued to vote for the BJP in subsequent assembly elections.
The Congress’s gambit is an attempt to win back these OBCs.
“The expert group has suggested that in line with reserved seats for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, the state should amend the Constitution to reserve seats for OBCs in assemblies and in Parliament proportionate to their population,” said a senior Congress functionary.
“It also said that based on the 2011 Social Economic Caste Census (SECC) data, the state should review and appropriately enhance the quantum of reservation for OBCs in education and public sector employment.”
The OBCs are a vastly diverse group, right from Yadavs and Kurmis in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and Vokkaligas in Karnataka to Badhais, Lohars and Kewats in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
“BJP had an advantage as Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is an OBC. Before the 2014 election, Modi highlighted his OBC background and many reports have pointed out that the BJP had got their support in the 2014 elections,” said another Congress leader.
“But with the 10 per cent reservation, the BJP is facing backlash and anger of the OBC communities.”
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