The Centre’s decision of carving a 4.5% sub-quota for minorities within the 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) is making ripples already.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) issued orders on Friday, within 24 hours of the decision being announced. This is being seen as a move to beat the Election Commission’s Uttar Pradesh poll announcement.
The Congress hopes to get Muslim support in UP – as it did to an extent in the 2009 polls. The Hindu OBCs, the losers in the bargain, have never supported the Congress in the state. The flipside: Hindu OBCs are crucial throughout India, and Congress may risk annoying them by reducing their quota pie.
Here, the BJP sees a chance. BJP OBC leader Uma Bharti condemned the move in Kanpur: “Giving minorities reservation within the OBC quota is unconstitutional”. The party’s Hindutva base permits it to condemn the move. With OBC leaders like Bharti, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Sushil Modi, Narendra Modi or Gopinath Munde, it can hope to pile on more OBC support to its upper caste base.
OBC politics of the SP and RJD relied on a Muslim-OBC (particularly Yadav) base for almost two decades. This base may now split. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP and RJD’s Lalu Prasad in Bihar, carved out a numerically powerful Muslim-OBC combination, which catapulted them into the national arena. The SP ended up demanding higher minority quota.
JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav, whose party also seeks Muslim support, said: “We are in favour of benefits for Muslims, but this is divisive.”
The Congress move threatens to derail the Muslim backward-Hindu alliance by giving a separate quota to minority OBCs at the expense of Hindu OBCs.