BJP Indicates Support of Quotas For Economically Backward Among Upper Castes

NEW DELHI: A day after Rajasthan assembly passed a bill for granting reservation to the poor in general category, BJP today indicated its support for affirmative action for the economically backward among upper castes.

The party, however, insisted it does not support any change in the existing reservation policy and the 50 per cent quota for the SCs, STs and backwards castes was “not negotibale”.

“While keeping the 50 per cent quota intact, the development of poor among those who are not getting the benefits of reservation, besides the dalits and backwards, has been a key aspect of our concerns and programmes,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar told a press conference.

“Today’s 50 per cent reservation is not negotiable. What further affirmative actions can be taken is a different issue,” he said.

Asked if the party wanted to amend the Constitution so reservation could be extended to even upper castes on the ground of economic backwardness, he said “this is not the issue right now”.

Quizzed if giving away more quota would not eat into the existing pie for the general category, he said 14 per cent reservation given by the Vasundhara Raje government was meant for the poor among these groups.

Mr Javadekar recalled that Ms Raje as Chief Minister had taken a similar step during her previous tenure but it was struck down by the judiciary. He said the party was “confident” it will pass muster this time.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had recently suggested a review of the reservation system, triggering a political storm ahead of the Bihar assembly polls, following which the BJP and the Centre distanced themselves from his comments. RSS had also clarified that Mr Bhagwat’s comments were not about the existing quota.

Party leaders believe any debate now on the issue can harm its prospects in Bihar polls.

The Rajasthan assembly had yesterday passed separate bills providing for five per cent reservation to Gujjars and other communities under Special Backward Classes (SBC) and for 14
per cent quota to Economically backward Classes (EBC) of unreserved categories.