Laloo's reservation hike gives nightmares to Paswan

PATNA: RJD chief and former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav has set the cat among politicians in the state by hiking the reservation quota for Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes, Extremely Backward Classes and Dalits.

In a far-reaching decision earlier this week, Laloo, who is under increasing attack from dissidents within his party, hiked reservation for SCs, BCs, EBCs and Dalits, from 10, 13, 14 and 13.5 per cent to 14, 15, 18 and 14.5 per cent respectively.

With this single stroke, he has not only changed all political equations in the state but also signalled that he is ready to take on Dalit leaders, Union Ministers Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan.

While Rail Minister Nitish Kumar preferred to tread cautiously on the issue, sources close to Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said he is busy working out a plan to agitate against this decision.

Sources close to Paswan confided that Laloo's move is purely aimed at making an inroad into Dalits and Scheduled Castes voters _ once the preserve of the Paswan and Nitish.

A spokesman of Paswan's Lok Janashakti, Sanjay Singh, described it as a populist move and promised to expose Laloo's double standards.Nitish refused to comment on Laloo's decision, observing ``Laloo's move is purely to create confusion and nothing else. Any one joining the issue would fall into his trap''.

The CPI state secretariat at an urgent meeting on Tuesday also decried the move. The party said the decision was devoid of any logic and did not cater to the needs of Dalits, SCs and Backwards.

It said the government should have waited for the final report on Dalit population before taking a hasty decision. The CPI secretary said that Laloo's decision was simply meant to confuse the electorate.

The decision has also run into opposition from within Rabri Devi's ministry.

While senior minister Ramai Ram is fuming over what he says Laloo's refusal to stick to constitutional requirements on the issue, yet another senior minister Taslimuddin is furious over the neglect of backward Muslims.

Ram, angered by the decision to raise reservation for Dalits by one percent, even threatened to put in his papers. He even complained that the matter had never come up before the Cabinet.

He announced that he would launch a state-level movement against this decision since it did not conform to constitutional norms of fixing reservation quota according to population.

The wily Laloo, however, managed to win him over by promising to rectify the decision within two months on the basis of the population formula. Ram fell for this, unaware it would take at least six months to publish the final report about Dalit population.

Sources said that the figures are being compiled and it would take not less than six months to come out with the final figure of Dalit population.

Ram has his own logic. He says in 1991 the Dalit population stood 14.55 percent. Now it has touched 16 percent. But this is not the official figure.

The government can only act after the official figures come to it. Thus by accepting Laloo's offer he has lost the initiative.

Taslimuddin has also reminded Laloo of his electoral promises. In his letter to Laloo, Taslimuddin, who belongs to the dissident camp, has demanded separate reservations for Muslim Dalits and the poor.

Chairman of the Backward Muslim Morcha, Ezaz Ali, while giving a call to agitate against the government's move, also urged Laloo to stick to his assurances to the community.

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Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: June 1, 2001
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