After Gujjars, Jat quota demand new headache for Raje govt

While the issue of Gujjar reservation is not settled yet, Chief Minister Vasundara Raje’s government is now facing the wrath of Jat community after the Rajasthan High Court quashed the quota benefits to the Jats belonging to Bharatpur and Dholpur districts of the state. The court has even ordered state government to create statutory Other Backward Class (OBC) Commission to review the 21 per cent OBC quota that accommodates around 81 castes including the Jat community.

Community leaders are cursing state government for the lack of proper defence in the court which they say led to a situation of uncertainty among OBC castes.  These leaders feel that the court has overstepped its jurisdiction and state government should appeal in the Supreme Court and save Rajasthan from an ugly caste war.  

“The petition filed in the High Court was to cancel the Jat reservation. Neither the SC nor the HC can cancel it because Jats were given reservation on the recommendation of the Krishnan commission. The recommendation was made after conducting a thorough study.  The then Ashok Gehlot government adopted the recommendations and included Jat community in OBC category. So, when the reservation could not be cancelled, there was no need to refer it to the OBC commission,” said Dr Hari Singh, former MP and a prominent Jat leader in the state. “The court has certainly overstepped its jurisdiction and state government should appeal in the SC.”

The directives by the Rajasthan HC to create the statutory commission and study the OBC quota has initiated a new debate but it has different meanings for state government, Jats, Gujjars and other castes coming under the OBC. The Jat leaders are of the view that in case recommendations are made by a normal commission, the state government is not bound to obey them. But in case of a statutory commission, government has the compulsion to consider its recommendation.

“By constituting statutory OBC commission, the court has bound state government to consider its recommendations even if several OBC castes are denied reservation. Government can only appoint the members in statutory commission. If OBC commission is being reviewed, then time has come to review all other commissions in the state including those for tribes,” said Hari Singh. “Why only OBC commission?”

Jat leaders accused state government for deliberately taking no interest in the petition which has made the situation worse. Had state government produced a strong defence in the court, the OBC reservation would never have been an issue in Rajasthan. Said Hari Singh: “By making Jat reservation an issue, chief minister wanted to control the community and use Jats as potential vote bank in next elections.”

The Jat community constitutes of over 20 per cent of Rajasthan’s population and it was the polarisation of their votes that led to a huge victory of the BJP in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections,” said a prominent Jat leader on condition of anonymity. But the court introduced the clause of statutory commission which is against the interest of state government and OBC castes, he added.

A blessing?

However, the court orders, in all probability, could even turn out to be a blessing for the Raje government and other political parties in the near future. After the directives issued by the court, the Raje government has no reason to come under the pressure of OBC castes on the issue of reservation. For the time being, the CM is saved of all troubles related to OBC reservation. The issue is likely to occupy headlines until the next Assembly or Lok Sabha polls, helping both the Congress and the BJP gain political mileage.

According to experts, the state government will soon issue a notification to create a permanent OBC commission. The panel will be tasked to come up with a quantified data of all 81 castes under the OBC. On social and education parameters, it will have to find out which OBC caste deserves reservation benefits. In the process, several castes could be kicked out from OBC category while many new castes demanding OBC status may be included in the list. The Jat and Gurjar communities are likely to be the most affected by this review.

While the Jats fear losing their reservation, the OBC review may also weaken the Gujjar community’s claim of 5 per cent reservation under Special Backward Class (SBC) category. According to a recent report, the Jat and Gujjars are among the top five castes taking maximum benefits of the OBC reservation. In such a situation, Gujjars may again have to convince the commission for their 5 per cent reservation under SBC category. It is believed that the review could pose severe threat to the reservation of various communities including the Jats, Maali, Kumawat, Yadav and Gurjars in the state.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, the entire community has come down in favour of Jats of Bharatpur and Dholpur districts. It has even called a Mahapanchayat in Bharatpur district to decide the future course of action.  The Jat leaders are of the view that Rajasthan HC can quash reservation because even the Krishnan panel had denied them quota benefits. In the recommendations made by the commission, the Jats of the two districts were treated as erstwhile rulers.

“We accept that the Jats were rulers in Bharatpur and Dholpur districts. But the common Jats in the two districts were never the privileged class like the Rajputs. In all Rajput-ruled places, even the common Rajputs were treated as landlords and were exempted from paying any taxes. So, if the Krishnan commission made some mistakes, it doesn’t mean that entire Jat community should suffer because of it,” said Hari Singh. Reservation to the Jat community in Rajasthan was given after a detailed study conducted by Krishnan commission. So it cannot be cancelled, he added.

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