The Constitutional Amendment Bill to ensure 10% reservation in education and government jobs for the economically weak may have only crossed its first legislative hurdle, but it has already opened a pandora's box of demands from various political parties in the country.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati has welcomed the move, despite calling it an "electoral gimmick" of the BJP. "The BSP's demand to provide reservation to the economically backward sections in the general category was approved by the cabinet in an immature way and without preparation. Our party, however, welcomes the decision though it appears to be an election stunt and political gimmick of BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls," the politician said in a statement. Her approval, however, came with a rider. The party now wants the government to review the limit of 50% quota for the SC/ST community and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi -- who hails from the Mahadalit faction -- also raised a similar demand. The Hindustan Awam Morcha chief wants the quota limit for the scheduled caste community hiked from 16% to 25%.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party of India -- a BJP ally -- has come up with a suggestion of its own. Party chief Ramdas Athawale has sought that the 27% reservation for OBCs be increased in proportion to their population (an estimated 10%). He also wanted yet-unreleased data from the Socio-Economic Caste Census-2011 to be made public, so the government can arrive at an estimate of the OBC population and the extent of quota it deserves. The Mandal Commission Report-1980 had pegged the country's OBC population at 52% on the basis of the 1931 census.
The Samajwadi Party, which is also eyeing OBC votes, wants 54% reservation for the politically significant community. "We support the centre's move to give quota to the upper-caste poor, but OBCs should get 54% reservation if the cap is being raised," said party leader Ram Gopal Yadav. He claimed that the bill will not bring about the outcome promised by the government because the cut-offs under the reserved class would become even higher than that for the general quota. "You will see this in a year, when the public service commission results are announced," he said. The politician also questioned the timing of the bill, given how it had come mere months before the Lok Sabha polls this year.
Bihar politician Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, on the other hand, found fault with the reasoning behind the bill. "If the government wants to give 10% reservation to 15% of the population, they will have to give 90% quotas for the rest too... why don't they reveal the caste census?" asked his son, Tejashwi Yadav, who is managing party affairs in the party chief's absence. Lalu Prasad Yadav was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment in the fourth fodder scam case last year.
The government's efforts to push the bill through also gave rise to reverberations down south, with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) seeking sub-quotas for backward Muslims and Scheduled Tribes. In a release, party president K Chandrasekhar Rao recalled how the state assembly had passed a resolution asking the Union government to ensure 12% reservation for backward Muslims and 10% for scheduled tribes. "I have told party MPs to seek amendments to the reservation bill, so these sections are also included in it," he said.
BJP chief Amit Shah had accused Mr Rao of minority appeasement ahead of the Telangana assembly elections
The reservation bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, with 323 lawmakers voting for it and three voting against.
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