BJP Government doing away with reservation for OBCs with some help from the Supreme Court

Why is the Government so shy about making public the caste data in the 2011 Census public? Why does it claim that only this data is flawed in the Census but not the rest of it ?

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

Faraz Ahmad

On a day when the Supreme Court struck down 27 per cent OBC reservations in local bodies in one more state Madhya Pradesh after Maharashtra, following the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta's submission that there is no reliable data to justify 27 per cent reservation for the Other Backward castes (OBCs), Union Home Minister Amit Shah had the gumption to claim that only BJP led by Narendra Modi worked for the backward castes and the poor.

Shah told an election rally in Uttar Pradesh that Modi had worked for all backward castes and the poor. While Shah was making these wild claims about Modi and the BJP’s concern for the OBCs in UP on Friday, December 17, newspapers reported that the Supreme Court “stayed elections to seats reserved for the OBC category in the upcoming local body polls in Madhya Pradesh…and directed that the elections proceed only after they are renotified as general category seats."

Two days prior to this the apex court bench chaired by Justice A M Khanwilkar directed the State Election Commission of Maharashtra to renotify 27 per cent seats in local bodies reserved for the OBCs, as general category and hold simultaneous elections for all the seats in general and SC/ST category.

On December 6, the same bench had first stayed the elections to the 27 per cent reserved seats, stating that the decision to earmark the quota was done without following the mandatory triple-test laid down by it to determine and address backwardness. The Justice Khanwilkar bench stated on December 15 that “there is no reason to modify the December 6 order, adding “the hiatus cannot continue for an indefinite period. In other words, the SEC must issue fresh notification for the remaining 27 per cent seats reserved for OBC as general category and commence election process for them along with remaining 73 per cent which is on its way.”

While striking down the OBC reservation the bench dismissed the state government’s plea that it had constituted a Commission through a notification dated June 29, “however without waiting for its report and opinion, the state government hastened the process (of reservation) by issuing an Ordinance which clearly impinges upon the legal position…,” the court observed.

Prime Minister Modi’s BJP Government at the Centre and in various states have been playing a sneaky game with the schedule castes, scheduled tribes but most of all with the Other Backward Classes representation in government employment, particularly in university teaching posts for long and now thanks to the Supreme Court diktat their representation in local bodies is also struck down. All on the specious plea that the government has no data over the backward caste population in the country.

The Government has rejected demands to make public the data on castes collected in the 2011 census, despite persistent demands of OBC leaders like Lalu Prasad, Sharad Yadav and others, claiming it was faulty and erroneous. The bench immediately accepted this contentious plea without questioning why only this data was suspect when everything else in the 2011 census stood certified and why has the BJP government resorted to this tactic only after the demand for caste census has become more loud.

Following this order striking down the reservation for the OBCs in the local bodies on purely technical grounds, the Maharashtra government decided to stay the entire election process till this matter was sorted out. On December 15 the Maharashtra cabinet resolved to defer the local body polls until empirical data has been collected for the purpose of reservation. The state government indicated it might have to defer the polls scheduled for January 18 to sometime in May.

Most ministers pressed to defer the polls till the OBC reservation was restored, according to cabinet member from NCP, Chhagan Bhujbal. Within no time the Supreme Court bench passed an order tying the Maharashtra government's hands and passed an order the same day stating, “In other words, the SEC must issue fresh notification for the remaining 27 per cent seats reserved for the OBC as general category and commence election process for them along with remaining 73 per cent…Counting and final results of both…must be held together and declared on one day local body wise” adding “these directions would also apply to by-elections.”

To prevent OBC leaders from approaching the Bombay High Court, in the same order this bench also transferred to itself any plea pending before the High Court on this matter stating that “if any direction has been passed by the High Court, it shall also stand modified.” It also dismissed Maharashtra government's plea to stay the election process till the Commission appointed by the state government and given three months deadline, presents its report.

Such an all-pervasive order on a policy matter with such alacrity is rare coming from the apex court which has left no manoeuvrability to the state government but to fall in line and do away with OBC reservation in local bodies.

The BJP and its governments at the Centre and in the states, practice duplicity. It is doing everything possible to do away with OBC reservations in a clandestine manner. For instance Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a starred question that there are 10,000 posts of teachers lying vacant in 54 central universities, IITs and IIMs across the country. Of this the highest vacancies are in the OBC category as per the minister’s data, with 1767 such posts in Central universities lying vacant. As many as 462 OBC reserved posts are also vacant in the IITs and 45 in the IIMs.

Most of the vacancies, the minister’s data disclosed are in respect of reserved category of SCs, STs and OBCs. But even here the vacancies in respect of reserved OBC seats is much higher. This reporter had reported, soon after the Yogi government assumed office how it had surreptitiously filled the teaching posts reserved for the OBCs and also in several cases SCs and STs with upper caste candidates. The minister’s disclosure only confirms the worst fears of an anti-reservation bias of the BJP and its governments.

It appears that this Modi government is adopting a covert policy of doing away with OBC reservations in all spheres, without so much as announcing it, while keeping the OBCs, SCs and STs engaged in the whipped-up Hindu-Muslim issue and use them as fodder against Muslims.

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