Lok Sabha polls 2019: How BJP is trying to take on reservation champions to ensure greater social justice
Although caste is a political reality across the country, the move will have the biggest impact in two states – UP and Bihar, which together send 120 members to the Lok Sabha.
Although caste is a political reality across the country, the move will have the biggest impact in two states – Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which together send 120 members to the Lok Sabha.
The sub-categorisation of OBCs will likely reduce the scope of any single group among them cornering the bulk of government jobs and seats in educational institutions. The measure, the government said, is part of efforts to ensure greater social justice and inclusion for members of OBCs.
The Union Cabinet has also approved an increase in the income criterion of Rs 6 lakh per annum to Rs 8 lakh for excluding the ‘creamy layer’ from the purview of OBC reservations. The government has also introduced a bill in Parliament to provide Constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes.
These decisions together are aimed at improving the representation of OBCs in educational institutions and jobs, while ensuring that the more under-privileged among them are not denied chances of social mobility.
While Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has carefully built up the “ati-pichchara,” or Most Backward Castes (MBC), as his support base to politically corner Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, the BJP has experimented with the same political formula to sideline Mulayam Singh Yadav, a former chief minister of neighbouring UP.
Now, the BJP may be trying to replicate it nationwide to carve out its own political space among the OBCs, who are entitled to 27% of government jobs. With this strategy, the BJP will also lose its tag as a “party of upper castes,” at least in the Hindi belt. The idea isn’t new.
Creating a separate category for MBCs, which together account for about 31% of the population, was introduced in 1978 by then Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur, better known as “Jan Nayak” in state politics. Under his reservation system for backward classes, there were separate quotas for MBCs (Ati-Pichchara) and the dominant OBCs (Pichchara).
Four decades later, the Karpoori formulae may prove to be most relevant for the BJP as it takes on the dominant OBC groups, especially the powerful Yadavs, in both states. Apart from ally Nitish Kumar-headed Janata Dal (United), Karpoori could become the MBC icon that the BJP needs to wield in the emerging political scenario.
The BJP is aware of the political value of the MBCs. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, they voted largely in favour of the BJP, enabling the party to win a record number of seats in UP and Bihar. Significantly, the BJP was able to bag the MBC votes without Nitish Kumar and his JD (U).