Skip to main content

Gujarat BJP rulers woo unreserved castes with a pittance: Rs 10 of 500 crore "approved"

By RK Misra*
The caste conundrum has burnt the BJP’s boat in Madhya Pradesh. Now it appears set to singe it in Gujarat, even sink it. As the saying goes, don’t play with fire, it burns. Caught in a cleft-stick following the 2015 Patidar agitation, which saw the ruling party nearly toppled from its power perch in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections, successive BJP governments in Gujarat find themselves lost in the reservation alley, sinking further every time it seeks to beat its way out.
Its latest move came recently when it put out a list of 69 castes and sub-groups among Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Parsis as well as Jews who would be defined as “unreserved classes”.
Officially, the list is designed to provide caste certificates to those from the unreserved castes, so that they can get benefits under the Gujarat Unreserved Educational and Economical Development Corporation (GUEEDC) scheme of 2017. This in effect means that the government has now created a new caste category called the ‘unreserved castes’.
"It’s like the proverbial garden fence, which keeps you out without obscuring the view, while allowing you to nibble from the edges", points out a top political leader preferring anonymity for obvious reasons. ”Nothing very new, except the urgency which is gripping the BJP as it realizes it’s support base slipping so it attempts to inject new life into the old for publicity’s sake”, adds a Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader.
The fact is that the Vijay Rupani government found itself handicapped after its own party government in neighbouring Maharashtra founded a new "socio-education backward class” to grant reservation benefits to Marathas.
The post-Narendra Modi era governments in Gujarat have been battling an intransigent Patidar community led by a youthful Hardik Patel heading a PAAS which has been demanding reservation in educational institutions and government jobs for his community.
The issue has seen heightened political passions, violence and statewide agitations which continues to simmer on a slow burner even after taking the toll of a Patidar chief minister, Anandiben Patel (the present MP governor).
It returned to blight the life of Amit Shah appointee chief minister Rupani following the announcement, ironically, in neighbouring Mumbai by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on November 18 about creation of a special category for Marathas based on the reports and recommendations of their state commission of backward classes.
PAAS reservation spearhead Hardik Patel was quick to pounce on the issue questioning how Maharashtra could do it and Gujarat failed. ”If it is possible constitutionally in Maharashtra, how come Gujarat failed lamely stating that beyond 50 per cent reservation was not possible”.
The fact of the matter is that Congress chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki had introduced reservation for socially and economically backward classes(SEBC) based on recommendations of the Bakshi Commission in 1981, but the anti-reservation agitation in which the BJP was also a silent participant put paid to the effort.
Though simmering on the backburner, the issue again came to the fore in July 2015 when the Patidars led by a 23 year old youth leader, Hardik Patel, held public demonstrations in support of their demand for OBC status. A rally in Ahmedabad on August 25, 2015 led to statewide violence after a police assault on peaceful agitators. Subsequently, on September 24, 2015 chief minister Anandiben Patel announced a scheme which offered scholarships and subsidies to general category students.
On April 30, 2016, her government followed it up with a new 10 per cent quota in jobs and college admissions for the economically backward among upper classes (EBCs) in a bid to defuse the Patidar agitation. The decision was taken at a core committee meeting of the Gujarat BJP in which national president Amit Shah was also present.
The new quota took the state past the 50 per cent reservation limit set by the Supreme Court. Gujarat then had 48 per cent reservation which included 7 per cent reservation for scheduled castes,14 per cent for scheduled tribes and 27 per cent for OBCs. PAAS had rejected the move as a mere lollipop. The 10 per cent reservation for the EBC was predictably quashed by the Gujarat High Court in August 2016 .
Former chief minister Suresh Mehta sees the genesis of the present problem in the rising resentment and frustration amongst the youth caused by soaring unemployment. ”Blinded by the extravaganzas unleashed by the then chief minister Narendra Modi through the Vibrant Gujarat summits that promised an upsurge of jobs, the youth were led into a blind alley and were frustrated when not even a fraction of these materialized", he says.
"When parents pay through their nose for costly education and thereafter the children idle at home with degrees in hand, the result is an explosive mix which spills over in society causing incalculable harm to the social fabric”, he adds.
The present delineation of the ’unreserved groups’ is an exercise which was launched in September 2017 in the run up to the Vidhan Sabha elections in the state in the shape of the GUEEDC. Under the scheme the government intended to grant monetary benefits to youth for education including foreign education, food bill assistance, tuition fee assistance ,coaching assistance, aid for competitive exams, self-employment assistance and bank loans for professionals training for competitive examinations.
Of the total budgetary allocation of Rs 500 crore, the state government has sanctioned Rs 100 crore for GUEEDC. But the fact remains that it has so far received a mere Rs 7.25 crore and in principle approval for another Rs 2.74 crore, according to official sources. Until November this year, only 433 applications have been received of which 146 were approved,109 rejected and 127 under processing.
This government is only interested in making grand announcements, but when it comes to implementation, it is a big zero. Moreover , theirs is an election to election announcement, points out Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi. ”The scheme was announced before the Vidhan Sabha elections and now as the parliamentary elections are nearing so comes another set of announcements. The actual allocation lets the cat out of the bag”, he adds.
The fact remains that the setting up of the corporation came as the PAAS tightened the screws of an impending stir. The new list of detailing now comes as the patidars and other general category people have announced their intention to launch a concerted agitation after the Maharashtra Bill for 16 per cent reservations for Marathas was passed.
PAAS had recently submitted a memorandum to the State OBC Commission stating that the Maharashtra commission for backwards had accepted that the Maratha community belongs to the backward caste and that on similar lines the patidars too should qualify in Gujarat.
The PAAS leader is also in talks with the Congress on the issue and the quota stir is expected to get a push in coming days.
“The BJP is playing with fire as it sets to play one set of people against the other and this base politics will eventually sink it”, points out former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela adding, “The recent election results of MP, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh is proof of it”.
---
*Senior Gujarat-based journalist. Blog: Wordsmiths & Newsplumbers

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Story of a foot soldier of Gujarat riots coming from a vulnerable community, Chharas

By Rajiv Shah
He is one of the more prominent "foot soldiers" of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Suresh Jadeja, alias Langdo, alias Richard, is indeed a well-known name in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, in which 97 persons were killed on February 28, 2002, the first day of the riots that shook the nation. Ordinarily, such a person should have been subjected to sociological scrutiny. What have here is a keen journalistic account, with clear political-ideological overtone.

Noteban: Harvard, Goldman Sachs scholars bemoan lack of "authentic" growth data

By Rajiv Shah
In a sharp observation, scholars of a recent high-profile study, "Cash and the Economy: Evidence from India's Demonetization", whose results have been widely reported, have bemoaned: That there is lack of authentic official data on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with the Government of India, forcing them to use “nightlights data”, a methodology usually adopted by top international scholars to assess socio-economic growth in highly underdeveloped countries of East Africa and parts of Asia, where no authentic ground level surveys are available to assess development.