The Chhattisgarh assembly on Friday unanimously adopted two Bills to enhance the state's overall reservation to 76 per cent in jobs and educational institutions — possibly the highest in India — in a strategic move by Bhupesh Baghel's Congress government that other parties may find hard to oppose.
The Bills, if and when granted assent by the Governor, will become Acts and provide 32 per cent quota for Scheduled Tribes (ST), 13 per cent for Scheduled Castes (SC), 27 per cent for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and 4 per cent for Economically Weaker Sections not covered by any of the other quotas.
The special session of the assembly was convened mainly to get these two Bills passed. This came days after the tribals' quota had declined to 20 per cent, because the High Court struck down a 2012 government order of the then BJP government and said total reservation beyond 50 per cent was unconstitutional.
Admissions and hiring for government jobs were held up as there was no quota in place since the September 19 judgment, as the government was putting its new plan in place.
Elections are just about a year away, and tribals protested across the state since the court decision, so the government has also gone to the Supreme Court besides formulating new laws.
The state government is also likely to urge the BJP government at the Centre to enlist this reservation in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, which contains laws that cannot be challenged in court, sources told NDTV. This is a key socio-political move by the Congress, which currently has chief ministers only in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where too the elections are next year.
The ultimate plan of the Bhupesh Baghel government is "proportional quota". This could cross 80 per cent, much more than what the BJP government's 2012 order had given: 32 per cent to STs, 12 per cent to SCs, and 14 per cent for OBCs. That order was challenged by some educational institutions and others, and the court struck it down on September 19.
For now, the quotas technically stand reverted to the pre-2012 levels: 20 per cent for tribals, 16 per cent for SCs, and 14 per cent for OBCs.
This mathematical back-and-forth has meant admissions and government jobs are stalled since the court verdict. These include 23,000 seats in engineering colleges, polytechnics and masters in computers, and 14,000 seats in B.Ed. colleges alone. Notification of new posts, including 12,000 teachers, is also held up as the state plans its next move.
The state's Opposition, mainly the BJP, had been pressuring the government to act fast, even blaming it for the court verdict.