The Most Backward Social Justice Committee (MBSJC), which constituted by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath earlier this year, has already submitted its report. The committee was set up to suggest ways for striking a caste balance in society in terms of reservation.
However, the UP government is so far silent on the report submitted by a four-member social justice committee. But still, a political discussion has commenced in the political circles of UP, as the report suggests limited quota for dominant castes like Yadavs and Kurmis.
Other political parties are seeing this move of Yogi Government as the BJP’s ploy to unite the Most Backward Castes against the Yadav community, and also as an antidote of the pre-poll alliance between Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in UP in 2019 General Elections.
While the report submitted by MBSJC has still not been made public or tabled in the Assembly, according to an allegedly leaked copy of the report, the MBSJC committee has suggested a three-way division of 27 per cent quota provided to OBCs to accommodate the Most Backward and Extremely Backward classes and the same formula to provide Maha-Dalits and Ati-Dalits with reservation benefits from 22.5 per cent SC/ST quota.
The MBSJC has recommended dividing OBC subcastes into three categories – pichda, ati pichda aur sarvadhik pichda (backward, very backward and most backward). While 12 subcastes have been put in the backward category, 59 have been placed in very backward and another 79 have been put in the most backward category. Each group is expected to get 9 percent reservation of the total 27 percent allotted for OBCs.
However, some news reports also suggest that castes like Yadav, Kurmi, and Jat listed under the Backward category may be restricted to 7% quota. With respect to these castes, the panel has said that they are politically, socially, economically and culturally strong and have a higher representation in government jobs at a ratio higher than their population, while also enjoying strong political influence. The 400-page report reads, “They have not been socially oppressed and feel proud in telling their castes.”
According to the news reports, the More Backward category would include castes like Gurjar, Kushwaha-Maurya-Shakya, Prajapati, Gaderia-Pal, Baghel, Sahu, Kumhar, Teli and Lodh who have poor representation political and economic front. The employment rate of these castes is only 50% in comparison to their population. The panel also said that some specific castes among them have been securing more employment in comparison to other castes, which is contributing to the emergence of a new middle class.
The third category, the Most Backward, includes castes like Mallah, Nishad, Kewat, Kashyap, Kahar, Bind, Rajbhar, Bhar, Loniya Chauhan, Dheevar and Ghosi. They are backward in all respects- culturally, economically, socially, and as well as politically. Most of them are employed in lower levels of government services (Grades 3 and 4 jobs).
Such an arrangement would extend the benefits of reservation to those who deserve it the most without unnecessarily expanding the overall quota system. However, two allies of the ruling BJP lead by CM Yogi have different views on such an arrangement. BJP’s frenemy and the Chief of BJP’s ally SBSP, Om Prakash Rajbhar, want the report to be implemented while Apna Dal headed by Supriya Patel is lukewarm towards the idea.
The Hindustan Times has quoted Om Prakash Rajbhar saying, “The decision of the Chief Minister Yogi would have a bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as implementing the report of the social justice committee would please various influential subcastes whose vote matters in elections but which have traditionally been deprived of the various reservation benefits.” He further added, “Naturally many of these subcastes have been devoid of reservation benefits, a situation that would change once the report is implemented.”
Rajbhars are the OBC subcastes and vote bank of SBSP. They haven’t reaped any benefit of reservation and that’s why SBSP’s chief is pushing for the quick implementation of the report, all to solidify his vote bank.
In contrast, BJP’s other ally, the Apna Dal is not enthusiastic about the report. Apna Dal’s Arvind Sharma said, “We believe that until a fresh caste-based census is undertaken it wouldn’t be easy to arrive at a logical conclusion on numbers that each subcaste has and the exact percentage of benefits that have reached them”. Apna Dal’s vote bank is Kurmi or Patel voters which make considerable 24 percent of OBC voters in UP.
Mr. Rajbhar says only a few dominant castes are enjoying the benefits of the OBC quota. He also threatened to sit on a Dharna until the report is implemented. He is touring various districts of UP to raise awareness among people regarding the report.
On the other hand, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav has termed sub-categorisation of the OBC quota as divide and rule politics of the BJP. He said, “The BJP has lost on all issues. It is doing the politics of divide and rule. The BJP always says that the number of OBCs should be counted. We say everyone should be counted because the BJP itself believes in sabka saath sabka vikaas – everyone gets rights and honour as per their population.”
Earlier Rajnath Singh had also toyed with the idea of a quota within quota for most backwards and maha dalits but his move failed as his government collapsed. However, it seems that this time Yogi Government will get the job done.