The most important question is this: If a government implements a policy that benefits a particular community, would that secure all the votes from that community and help re-elect the government? Of course, it is true with respect to SCs, STs and OBCs. But the recent Lok Sabha election has proved this belief wrong, particularly with respect to Kshatriya castes. Take the example of the Jat community. Just before the Lok Sabha election kicked off, the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre hastily decided to offer OBC status to the zamindar community of the Jats. It was amply clear that the need for votes was what inspired this move. In the most important states such as Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, there are many constituencies that can be won by a majority of the Jat votes. Therefore it was expected that the Congress would bag more than 50 seats in these states. After taking into account the so-called Modi tsunami effect, this figure should have been at least 30. Instead, the Congress ended up with only five seats in these four states, scoring a big zero in Rajasthan. The acclaimed Jat stalwarts of the UPA such as Ajit Singh fell flat on their faces.
Worse, Jat reservation didn’t go down well with the OBCs. In all these four states, they, excluding the Yadavs, voted for the BJP to teach the Congress a lesson. So, this proves that although the size of the community belonging to a caste may be ‘enough’ for a government to be re-elected, angry, united OBCs could become the sole deciding factor for winning an election. It is simple mathematics: when they make up 52 per cent of the population, no other community can have a majority.
Truth behind Congress-NCP deafeat in LS polls
Some OBC organizations and learned men from Maharashtra have founded the Save OBC Reservation Committee. On 9 April 2013, the committee organized a one-day picketing protest at Azad Maidan, Mumbai, demanding proper remedies to the issue of Maratha and OBC reservations. It has formally submitted a letter with suggestions to the chief minister, deputy chief minister, social welfare minister and the Narayan Rane Committee. But till today the government has not cared to invite this committee for even an ordinary discussion.
The general assessment has been that the Maratha community did not vote for the Congress-NCP alliance in the Lok Sabha elections, but there is no truth in it. In Maharashtra, compared to the percentage of votes received in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress received just 1.51 per cent less and NCP just 3.28 per cent less. If the Maratha community really had not voted for the ruling front then it would have got far less votes: according to the Maratha organizations’ own calculation, the share of Maratha votes (excluding the Kunbis) is much higher than 20 per cent, and according to the Narayan Rane committee it is 32 per cent. But in all practicality it may be 12 per cent.
Before the Lok Sabha elections all major Maratha organizations came together and met the chief minister and deputy chief minister, giving clear assurance that the Maratha community would vote for the ruling front. These organizations even declared their support for the ruling alliance in a public press conference. Therefore, it can’t be that the Maratha community did not vote for the ruling front. How about the widely believed anti-incumbency after an uninterrupted 15-year rule? Actually, anti-incumbency played only a marginal role.
The most credible reason for the alliance’s defeat seems to be the unwanted aggressiveness on the issue of Jat and Maratha reservations that scared off many of the OBCs. Sensing the discontent among the OBCs, the BJP at the outset projected their ‘OBC Modi’. The OBCs fell prey to the emotion of seeing a downtrodden OBC occupy the highest post of our nation, and voted for the BJP.
Saving OBC reservations
However, this should not be construed as the Save OBC Reservation Committee’s objection to the reservations for Jats and Marathas. We have clarified our stand on the issue. Our objection was to the method used in granting reservations. We demand that the Maratha community be granted reservation independently, proportionate to its number. And this is very simple. On behalf of the OBC organizations, we have been offering a ‘government-approved’ solution to the Maratha leaders for the past six years. According to a verdict given by the Supreme Court, reservation can’t exceed 50 per cent. Therefore, some people argue that Maratha community can’t be given reservation independently. One of the measures would be to remove the 50 per cent ceiling on reservations. The Maharashtra government must pass a resolution by majority in the upcoming Vidhan Sabha session and implement the measures suggested by 2005 Nachiappan Committee. The ceiling of 50 per cent will automatically become invalid and along with the Marathas, Jats, Muslims, Christians, etc can be designated ‘Special Backward Class’.
Once this is done, the Congress-NCP front in Maharashtra should declare, prior to the Legislative Assembly election, an OBC candidate for chief minister. In all probability, their rule in the state will then continue uninterrupted for yet another term.
Published in the September 2014 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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