If the BJP thought the best way to handle the Gujjar demand for Scheduled Tribe status without angering the Meenas was to toss the issue to the UPA government, the Centre seemed less than willing to bail it out.
Union Tribal Affairs Minister PR Kyndiah said on Wednesday that the Centre can act only after a state government recommends tribal status for any community.
Unwilling to antagonise the powerful Meena community, the Rajasthan government decided to forward to the Centre the report of the Justice Jasraj Chopra Committee, which rejected the Gujjars' demand on the ground that they did not qualify under the existing criteria for obtaining ST status.
"If any state government wants to grant tribal status to any community, while sending a report to the Central government, it has to give its recommendation with proper justification. Otherwise, it has no meaning," Kyndiah told PTI.
The Vasundhara Raje government has not given any recommendation of its own, angering the Gujjar community, which has threatened to lay siege on the state capital, Jaipur, on January 21. Gujjar leader Prahlad Gunjal said in Jaipur that the agitation could even turn violent.
Central BJP leaders, however, said in New Delhi that the Raje government's stand "meant" it was sympathetic to the Gujjars and wanted the criteria changed and a special package given to the community.
Kyndiah said the Centre has not received the Chopra Committee report from the Rajasthan so far.
Putting the onus on the Centre, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said the "obsolete" and "outdated" criteria for determining if a community is a Scheduled Tribe was coming in the
way of including new castes in the list and that the Centre should make the necessary changes.
In Jaipur, Congress MP Sachin Pilot said, "The Raje government has deceived the Gujjar community and it will have to face the people on this breach of trust."
Pilot said "It is an eyewash — the state government forwarding the (Chopra Committee) report to the Centre. It has got right of classification of the castes and the Centre can act on the report only if the state government sends it with its legal opinion and specific recommendations.