LUCKNOW: Reservation has been a sensitive issue in the Hindi heartland where caste-based politics and leaders have enjoyed significant clout over the years.
The SCs and STs, who account for around 22 per cent of the population in Uttar Pradesh, have been playing a major role in deciding the fate of political players in the ring.
The latest Supreme Court order has sent jitters across the political spectrum in Uttar Pradesh where the clout regional satraps – Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party—have largely been based on castes especially backward castes and Dalits, respectively.
The worries of SP and BSP are reasonable as these parties have been witnessing a depletion in their original vote base. In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, despite having joined the hands to secure their respective clout, the vote share of SP-BSP combine came down to a little over 37 per cent from 42 per cent in 2014. It was majorly due to the greater mobilisation of backwards and Dalits towards the BJP putting it strongly on the ruling horizon.
The vote share of the saffron party went up to over 49 per cent in 2019 from a little over 42 per cent in 2014.
The political pundits have attributed this rise in BJP vote share to the mobilisation of non-Yadav backwards and non-Jatav Dalits. In fact, the power struggles in UP and the resulting shifts can be traced to the manner in which the SP and the BSP have treated the backwards and Dalits in the name of social engineering.
However, a dominant view is that reservation is a means to correct historical wrongs committed against the lower strata of society. The implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations in the early 90s followed by widespread protests by a section of upper caste groups against quotas made it imperative for the policymakers to strike a fine balance on the subject.
Meanwhile, the latest SC order has brought the focus back to the debate. The political parties, with considerable clout among backward and Dalits, have voiced their concern over the SC ruling and rising suspicion at the government.
Bhim Army has reacted to the SC ruling by announcing an agitation on February 23, others have appealed to the Centre to take cognisance of the matter.
While the SP has charged the ruling BJP government at the Centre with conspiring against the Dalits, BSP chief Mayawati sought the Union Government to take positive corrective steps in that direction as her party did not agree with the Supreme Court ruling. Asking the Centre to come out clear over the issue soon, Mayawati said, “We demand from the Centre not keep the matter hanging like Congress did,” she said.
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav again demanded caste census. “After caste census, and once the data is out, the different castes should get their share according to their ratio in the population,” he said.
Though the BJP governments, both at the Centre and at the state level, have been trying to allay the fears, the Congress party too launched a broadside on the ruling dispensation. They have been accusing the BJP and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh of conspiring to end reservation.
Similarly, the SC/ST employees of UP government have also announced a protest against the SC decision that gives state governments the discretion to implement quota in promotions.
However, a split is now visible among employees, with Rajya Karmchari Sanyukt Parishad welcoming the decision, adding that the same policy should be implemented for promotions.
Calling the ruling unfortunate, Apna Dal national president Anupriya Patel said that the main reason for the recent move against reservation was the absence of SC/ST representation in courts.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)