With a government-appointed panel calling for reservation for minorities, the BJP senses an opportunity to find favour with the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) among Hindus.
The Ranganath Misra Commission has recommended 15 per cent quota for Muslims in education and employment.
In case the recommendation falls foul of law — the Supreme Court has capped reservation at 50 per cent and the provision will push it way beyond the ceiling — a minority sub-quota within the OBC bracket has been suggested. It means that from within the 27 per cent quota for the OBCs, 8.4 per cent will be for minorities.
While the Mandal Commission, set up with a mandate to identify educationally and socially backward, said the OBCs constituted 52 per cent of India’s population, the National Sample Survey Organisation put the figure at 41 per cent.
Though the government has not set a timetable for adopting the suggestions, the Misra report can lead to political realignments.
The Congress can gain Muslim support, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Muslim-Yadav alliance nurtured by Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad in UP and Bihar, respectively, could be tested as the two groups will be in fight for the same quota pie.
And this is where lies an opportunity for the BJP to attract OBCs to its fold — in line with new chief Nitin Gadkari’s emphasis on widening the party’s social base. Traditional base of the BJP is upper caste Hindus.
“We’ll oppose any attempt to take away the rights of backward Hindus and give them to minorities,” deputy leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde, an OBC leader, said.
The BJP’s rise to power in the 1990s was accompanied by substantial non-Yadav OBC mobilisation in the Hindi belt, particularly in UP, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats.
From 45 per cent in the 1996 Lok Sabha polls in the state, the BJP’s non-Yadav OBC vote share fell to 28 per cent in the 2004 polls, according to the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. Recently, most of its candidates for the 11 UP assembly by-polls forfeited their security deposit.
OBC vote can be crucial to the party’s revival.