In what can be termed as a masterstroke, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has included 17 OBC castes in the Scheduled Castes (SC) list.
A decision to this effect was taken late Friday night and authorities have been directed to issue caste certificate to families belonging to these 17 castes.
The castes that have been added into this list are - Nishad, Bind, Mallah, Kewat, Kashyap, Bhar, Dhivar, Batham, Machua, Prajapati, Rajbhar, Kahar, Pottar, Dhimar, Manjhi, Tuhaha and Gaur, which previously belonged to the Other Backward Castes (OBC) category.
This move is seen as an attempt by the Yogi Government to provide these social and economically backward classes with the benefits of reservation after removing legal irritants that have stalled the issue in the past.
The move will leave greater space in the OBC quota for the remaining OBC caste groups.
This is also the fulfilment of a 15-year-old demand by these 17 caste groups.
Coming before the by-elections to 12 Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, the move is bound to benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and further erode the vote base of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.
This, incidentally, is the third time that the state government will be making an attempt to include 17 OBC castes into the SC bracket.
Previously, both, the SP and BSP governments had attempted to include the above-mentioned castes into the SC category but failed to do so due to legal intervention.
The first attempt was made by the Mulayam Singh Yadav regime when it brought a resolution in 2004. The then SP government amended the UP Public Services Act, 1994, to include as many as 17 castes of OBCs into the SC category. Since the power to declare any caste as SC rests with the Centre, the then Uttar Pradesh government's decision taken without the Centre's consent, proved futile.
The Allahabad High Court later quashed the decision declaring the move unconstitutional and void.
Another attempt was made in 2012 when Akhilesh Yadav came to power and a high-level committee headed by the then Chief Secretary Jawed Usmani sought details from the department of social welfare in this regard.
The circular from the chief secretary on March 28, 2012, spoke about the government's priorities, including the inclusion of as many as 17 OBC sub-castes within the SC category. The matter, however, was rejected by the centre.
The BSP, however, vehemently opposed the idea and demanded increase in SC quota from the present 21 per cent in the changed scenario. It also termed the move as a "conspiracy to dilute the reservation quota for Dalits".
The Adityanath government's attempt is all set to bear fruit since it, apparently, comes with the Centre's approval.