The UPA 2 government has done itself yet another disservice by including the Jats in the category of the other backward classes (OBCs) at a time when the Lok Sabha elections are less than two months away.
This was something the Cabinet was able to do on its own through an administrative order. But when legislation was required to be brought in through ordinance, it decided to drop the idea because President Pranab Mukherjee was reportedly opposed to it at this stage. Neither of the two cases showed the government in a good light.
Looked at from one point of view, the inclusion of the Jats in the OBC category is not surprising because the Congress leadership had supported such a step. And inability to grant them OBC status would have lowered the image of the government in the eyes of the community, spread over nine states. But it is the timing that makes the move suspicious because any such step would be seen as appeasing a powerful community. In preparing for this, the Congress leadership had probably not reckoned on certain factors.
First, it will lead to such demands from many other communities. Second, not all OBCs are on a par economically or politically. The inclusion of the powerful and in some regions prosperous Jats in the OBC category could amount to opening a Pandora’s box because in that case the relatively weak OBCs may feel threatened because they will have to compete with the Jats on an equal footing and lose out in the process. A parallel development is taking place among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, among whom there are third-generation beneficiaries now.
Unless some rationalisation is introduced in the system, there is every possibility that some among the SC/STs may always remain deprived because even the privileged ones are getting quota benefits.
As regards the six ordinances that were dropped, some like the ones on protection for whistleblowers and amendments to the anti-corruption Act were no doubt laudable. But what is intriguing is that when the government had a full term of five years — and with handsome numbers on its side to boot — to push them through, it could not forge a degree of consensus among the parties concerned on those measures in the way it did on Telangana or food security.
Had the ordinances been introduced and then failed to obtain the approval of the new Lok Sabha, the Congress’ embarrassment would have been even greater. In that sense the President has shown wisdom in not going ahead with the proposed ordinances.