New Delhi: Union social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot has said the Centre is not considering any proposal to subdivide the OBCs as proposed by the National Commission for Backward Classes.
“There is no such view within the government. There is no discussion at any serious forum. This issue is not under examination,” Gehlot told TOI about a recent proposal of the panel.
In an April missive, the NCBC asked the Centre for a direction on whether it should go ahead with “subcategorization of OBCs” for which the preliminary process had been initiated after a nod from the UPA regime. The panel argued that subdivision would ensure equitable distribution of Mandal reservations.
“Subcategorization” is seen as the solution to the grievance that stronger backwards have cornered the reservation benefits to the detriment of weaker sections within the category. The socially feeble groups are unable to compete with the empowered castes with whom they vie for OBC quota benefits.
It is proposed that OBCs be divided into subgroups as per their social profile, with 27 per cent quota apportioned among them in proportion to their population.
If the social justice minister’s response betrays a reluctance to bite the bullet, the stance could be owing to its possible implications for Bihar elections due later this year.
There may be a fear that subdivision would anger the stronger backwards like yadavas and kurmis. The leaders of the two communities — Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar — have joined hands in an alliance against BJP.
There is a conflict between weaker and stronger OBCs over the issue. While the former feel it would boost their chances of tapping the Mandal quotas, the latter are apprehensive that it would limit their playing field to just a fraction of the 27 per cent quota available to them.
Consequently, the resentful stronger backwards could consolidate aggressively in favour of the RJD-JD(U) combine. On balance, BJP believes it can dent the vote base of Lalu-Nitish alliance and may want to avoid a provocation like subdivision.
Observers, however, argue that it may not be as big a political risk since subdivision would be lapped up by the weaker OBCs who see it as panacea to their sidelining by their empowered brethren since the onset of Mandal benefits. The weaker OBCs far outnumber their empowered counterparts, forming a stronger vote bank.
A decision based on political grounds, experts lament, would sound the end of what is a progressive step to refine the affirmative action regime, skewed as it is in favour of a small section of the backwards.