Quota, not Ayodhya, to dominate UP poll scene
The Times of India News Service
LUCKNOW: The issue of Ayodhya, which had dominated the last three elections in Uttar Pradesh, might take back seat in the coming Assembly elections in the state as the reservation would be the hottest issue this time.
Bhartiya Janata Party, which was always accused of raking up the Ayodhya issue, has initiated to change the course of political scenario through announcement by U.P chief minister Rajnath Singh to give reservation benefit to most backward castes[MBCs] in the state. The U.P government has also constituted a social justice committee to decide the modalities in this regard.
The Opposition parties, including main opposition Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress along with smaller Opposition groups like Kalyan Singh-led Rashtriya Kranti Party (RKP) have already picked up the issue with various statements suggesting that the issue would remain in the contention in the next Assembly elections due in March,2002. The last three Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which were held in 1991, 1993 and 1996, focussed on Ayodhya as the main issue. The subject which has always cast its shadow on the political arena, is however, likely to be pushed back this time.
U.P CM, according to political analysts, has made his party's intentions clear by coming out with a categorical statement about reservation to most backward class and most backward Dalits. He even announced that the eight- member social justice committee would submit its report to the government by August 31 next followed by its immediate implementation. Presently, as per constitutional provisions, 27 per cent reservation was being given to backward classes, 21 per cent to scheduled castes and two per cent to scheduled tribes.In states like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, further reservation to most backwards castes in backward classes category and most backward Dalits in scheduled castes category was being provided.
The committee formed in the state would tour these states to study the modalities of reservation within the quota before submitting its report. The CM is of the view that only two or three castes among the backwards and Dalits were enjoying reservation benefits and the most backwards in even these two categories were being ignored.
Rajnath Singh has also hinted at 15 per cent reservation each to most backwards and most backward Dalits. He, however, made it clear that the reservation limit would not exceed 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court.
While all the Opposition parties have reacted to it in one way or another, the BJP has convened a meeting of backward leaders of the party in Lucknow on July 12 next. Union minister Uma Bharti said she had initiated this by thanking the U.P CM.
The announcement of U.P government had caused a flutter in Samajwadi Party and BSP by announcing reservation within the quota. The leaders of both the parties termed the move as an ''instrument'' to divide the backward castes and Dalits. They even charged that this was a conspiracy to effect a caste war before elections.
The SP and BSP argued if the BJP had sympathy for the most backward, they should seek constitutional amendment to raise the reservation quota to accommodate all. Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav and RKP president Kalyan Singh have advocated raising of reservation to 54 per cent. Former prime minister and crusader of social justice Vishwanath Pratap Singh has further intensified the issue by announcing August 9 would be observed as the ''Mandal Diwas'', the day notification of Mandal Commission was issued.
Communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who has been politically active in Uttar Pradesh and working to woo the Dalits, though has different views. He said the Mandal Commission was the beginning of a social revolution but now it was ''irrelevant'' and ''not needed''.
The BJP leaders, though non-committal about making reservation an election issue, have suddenly waken up to speak about the most backwards in the state. Senior minister and prominent backward leader of the state Om Prakash Singh says the issue is bound to benefit the BJP in the next election. He says parties like SP and BSP have always played the caste card but failed to serve the interests of backwards and Dalits.