Caste dynamics at play through EWS quota

Caste dynamics at play through EWS quota

A screen displays the results of voting on the bill to provide 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically backward section in the general category, in Lok Sabha in New Delhi, Tuesday, Jan 8 2019. (LSTV grab via PTI)

Caste dynamics is at play in full throttle after the Modi government on Monday proposed a 10 % quota for the poor among the upper castes.

While a number of parties, including Congress, had in the past reiterated commitment to work out a mechanism to reserve seats for the poor among the general categories without affecting the existing quota for SCs, STs and OBCs, the OBC leaders from regional parties - both in Opposition and those within NDA fold - have turned restive after the government brought the bill providing for reservation for EWS category, in Parliament on Tuesday.

NDA ally in Uttar Pradesh, Apna Dal headed by Union Minister Anupriya Patel, on Tuesday said reservation should be 'jiski jitni sankhya bhari, uski utni bhagidaari' (based on population) and demanded caste census figures to know the exact population of different communities.

Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) headed by Om Prakash Rajbhar, who is a minister in Yogi Adityanath government, also gave a 100-day ultimatum to the BJP to implement recommendations of a social justice committee on backward reservation.

The reactions from the NDA backyard are in addition to the chorus raised for caste consensus by Lalu Prasad led RJD, which demanded in Lok Sabha on Tuesday 90% quota for other than general classes.

Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, who recently quit NDA and joined the Opposition grand alliance in Bihar,  demanded reservation for different castes as per their population and amendment to breach the 50 % ceiling on reservation by the Supreme Court so that OBC quota can be enhanced.

RJD MP Jaiprakash Yadav in the Lower House pressed the argument of his party leader Tejashwi Yadav that if 15 % people are given 10 % reservation (EWS), then 85 % people from non-general category should be given the remaining 90 % quota. The RJD has questioned the basis of EWS quota. Samajwadi Party also backed the RJD demand. BSP questioned the government intent. However, none of these parties opposed the idea of providing reservation to the poor among the upper castes.

BJP hopes

BJP, on the other hand, hopes to blunt the agitation by dominant castes like Patidars and Jaats for reservation and also address the unrest among upper caste Bhumihar, Rajputs and Brahmins through the quota gambit.

Patidar unrest for quota in Gujarat was the primary reason for BJP’s poor show in last assembly polls. Marathas and Jaats, influential peasant communities, have also been seeking caste-based quota.

The castes which will benefit from the EWS quota are Rajput, Bhumihar, Brahman and Kayastha in Hindi belt states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; Maratha and Chandraseniya Kayastha Pravbhu (SKPs) in Maharashtra, Jaat in Western UP, Haryana and Rajasthan, Brahmin and Baniya in Karnataka and Patidars in Gujarat. 

At state level also, quota has been announced for some of these castes.