After dividing society, the Jat reservation issue now appears to have split politicians, at least that was evident here on Thursday.
Many senior Congress leaders opposed the caste-based reservation stance of former state party president Captain Amarinder Singh, who in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had demanded the cabinet decision of OBC (Other Backward Classes) quota to Jats extended to Jat Sikhs in Punjab and the other states. Amarinder Singh, who is also president of the All-India Jat Mahasabha, had written that the reservation should be based on caste and not religion, as Sikh and Muslim Jats were excluded from the benefit in many states.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), ruling party in Punjab, had joined the chorus for the OBC quota for Jat Sikhs. Senior Congress leaders of Punjab, who had come to attend the party's Shaheedi Jor Mela political conference here, wanted the quota based on not caste but economic status. Punjab Congress president and member of Parliament from Gurdaspur, Partap Singh Bajwa; former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal; former state Congress president Shamsher Singh Dullo, and senior party leader Lal Singh shared this opinion.
"Rich Jats in Punjab, such as the Badal family, deserve no reservation," said Bajwa, adding: "People of any caste may fall in the economically weaker section." "Even late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi held the same view," said Bhattal. Dullo backed the economic-status theory in spite of being from a Scheduled Caste. "The SC people who have all the resources shouldn't claim the benefit," he said.
Lal Singh was of the view that the government should extend the help to anyone who deserved it actually but would go by the Congress high command decision on the issue.