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Cabinet Secretariat returns quota proposal

The move appears to be a damage-control exercise to buy time, report Chetan Chauhan and Jai Raina.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2006 23:11 IST

In an unexpected move prompted by the Election Commission's intervention in the matter, the Cabinet Secretariat has returned the HRD Ministry's controversial proposal for reservation for OBCs in central educational institutions with the advice that it be run through the poll panel as it happens to be election time.

The ministry's draft bill, accompanied by a cabinet note, said the 93rd constitutional amendment — envisaging quotas for social and educational backward classes — be extended to educational institutions under the Centre.

The Cabinet Secretariat's move appears to be a damage-control exercise aimed at buying time to address popular concerns while showing respect for the EC.

But for HRD Minister Arjun Singh, the development looks a bit of a let-down, more so because of the swagger with which he had responded to the EC's queries on the issue.

In his reply, Singh had told the EC that the proposal to extend reservation to all central educational institutions was ready for the cabinet's consideration. Against this backdrop, the Cabinet Secretariat's action has rendered his position a bit untenable.

After there were reports that his office had returned the proposal to the ministry, Cabinet Secretary BK Chaturvedi said that no decision had been taken and no such proposal was before the cabinet.

Principal Information Officer Deepak Sandhu too said no HRD Ministry proposal on reservation was before the cabinet.

Sources, however, said any proposal sent to the secretariat could not be termed as being before the cabinet. Before putting a proposal before the cabinet, the secretariat determines if the proposal is complete and the inter-ministerial discussion has been done.

HRD Ministry sources said consultations were held with the ministries of health, social justice, agriculture, tribal affairs and home before dispatching the proposal to the Cabinet Secretariat. Only the Ministry of Defence was not sounded out.

Whatever the case, the government -- which survives with the support of major political supporters of affirmative action like the RJD, DMK and PMK -- will find it difficult to hold back the proposal even if there is some rethink within the Congress.

First Published: Apr 11, 2006 01:41 IST