With the Centre on Tuesday declaring the Uttar Pradesh government's move to include 17 OBC communities into the scheduled castes list beyond the state's power, the state opposition parties accused the Adityanath government of trying to mislead people.
The state government had on June 24 directed district administration to issue SC certificates to 17 OBCs - Kashyap, Rajbhar, Dhivar, Bind, Kumhar, Kahar, Kewat, Nishad, Bhar, Mallah, Prajapati, Dhimar, Batham, Turha, Godia, Manjhi and Machua.
Responding to a Zero Hour mention by BSP member Satish Chandra Misra in Rajya Sabha, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot Tuesday said shifting one caste to another category by the Uttar Pradesh government was "not proper" and only the Parliament has the power to do so.
Maintaining that the UP government move was not in accordance with the Constitution, Gehlot said if the state government wants to go ahead with its proposal, it should follow the procedure and send a proposal to the Centre.
In Uttar Pradesh, the BSP, which has been in the forefront of opposing the state government move, said the Adityanath government's order was against the spirit of the Constitution and the Centre has cleared the misunderstanding over the issue.
"It was an unconstitutional order and a fraud with these castes as this would have left members of these castes deprived of benefits even under the OBC category," a senior BSP leader said on condition on anonymity.
"Even the President (of India) does not have the power to tinker, alter or make changes (in the list)," BSP MP, Satish Chandra Misra told the Rajya Sabha earlier in the day.
BSP president Mayawati too assailed the state government move, saying this would only increase the people's woes.
Addressing her party leaders here, she said a similar move earlier was made by the SP government to gain political mileage.
The people belonging to the deprived sections of society, who are actually entitled to get the reservation benefits continue to be the victims of neglect, she said.
The BSP supremo also assailed the Centre's move to hike the quota limit beyond 50 percent, saying the manner in which it is being done would only trigger a demand for reservation to hike quota for SCs/STs and other backward sections in proportion to their population.
"This only goes on to prove the narrow thinking and casteist mindset of the BJP governments," she said.
Congress spokesman Dwijendra Tripathi said had the UP government seriously wanted to extend the benefits to these 17 OBC communities, it could have followed the right procedure.
"This move was a betrayal with these 17 castes and an attempt to snatch their rights. The government knows that they do not have the power to do so. They should have sent it in the right format after getting it passed by the Vidhan Sabha," said Tripathi.
When contacted, SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said he was yet to find out the day's proceedings in the Rajya Sabha on the issue.
He, however, said SP chief Akhilesh Yadav believes in securing social justice.
Chaudhary said the BJP was trying to exploit the issue for political gain.
Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) president Om Prakash Rajbhar said the move was aimed at garnering support of these 17 castes in the upcoming bye-elections on 12 assembly seats in the state.
"The intentions of the UP government to get votes in the bye-elections on 12 seats have been thoroughly exposed," said Rajbhar in a tweet.
These 17 OBC groups together constitute about 13 per cent of the total backward population in the caste politics-dominated state and can make or mar the electoral prospects of a party or candidate, say political analysts.
The Allahabad High Court is also seized of the government's move to alter the scheduled castes list.
While hearing a plea against the UP government's move by a Gorakhpur-based civil society, the high court has made it clear that the UP government's decision would be subject to the outcome of the petition.
Scheduled Caste groups apprehend that the move of the Adityanath government might dent their quota as the new entrants would consume their share if their reservation limit was not expanded.