BJP launches backward classes quota politics in UP

The Times of India News Service

By Bhaskar Roy

NEW DELHI: Political equations are being reworked in Uttar Pradesh in the months before the Assembly elections over the state government's promise of a job quota for the most backward castes.

The ruling BJP's efforts to gain political mileage from the recent announcement will get underway on Tuesday when Union ministers Uma Bharti and Ram Vilas Paswan join chief minister Rajnath Singh at a public meeting in Lucknow.

In an apparent attempt to divide the backward classes and win over a section of them, the BJP has planned a campaign on the issue of the MBC quota. The Lucknow show, billed as a thanks-giving meeting, is, in fact, seen as a prelude to the poll campaign.

The presence of Bharti, one of the most prominent Backward politicians in the BJP fold, will clearly acquire unmistakable political overtones. She has reportedly been instructed by her party leadership to get active in the UP campaign apparently to offstage the negative impact of former chief minister Kalyan Singh's expulsion on the Backwards. When contacted, Bharti admitted as much. ``Yes, I am going to campaign extensively in UP,'' she told this paper.

The Opposition camp, however, feels that an overkill on the MBC quota issue is sure to backfire. ``A section of the Backwards among whom the BJP has significant support, might veer away from the party as a reaction to the new quota politics,'' former Prime Minister V. P. Singh remarked. The castes he declined to mention in this context, seem to be the Lodhas and Kurmis.

Singh who as Prime Minister had accepted the Mandal commission report on OBC reservations, interestingly felt that the economic issues were going to determine the political agenda in the coming years. ``The UP elections will be a test case for the new kind of politics,'' he remarked.

The Samajwadi Party which has done well in the recent by-elections in the state, sees chief minister Rajnath Singh's announcement of the sub-quota as an expression of ``desperation.''

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Published on: July 17, 2001
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