Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government has set up a commission for sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Members of the panel were appointed by President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday. In an official release, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, said, “This decision, taken on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, reinforces, in the spirit of his teachings, the Government’s efforts to achieve greater social justice and inclusion for all, and specifically members of the Other Backward Classes.”
“Sub categorization of the OBCs will ensure that the more backward among the OBC communities can also access the benefits of reservation for educational institutions and government jobs,” it added.
While expanding social justice to those who have yet failed to benefit from the OBC quota is one stated goal behind the move, the politics of it, also, cannot be ignored. OBCs form a major chunk of total electorates of India. The Mandal Commission report of 1980 had quoted OBC population of the country at 52%. However, the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) survey of 2006 quoted OBC population at 41%.
In Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections early this year, BJP had reaped massive votes by making inroads into OBC voters, along with its traditional voters. As PM Modi will make a second bid for power in 2019, OBCs would be the top target of the saffron party. This is where OBC sub-categorisation panel is expected to play a role. It is even believed that the panel may prove to be a “Mandal 2.O” moment for the BJP.
Mandal Commission had recommended 27% reservation for OBCs. The decision to provide the reservation by then VP Singh government in 1990 had changed political scene in the country like never before. At the cost of Congress’ traditional votebanks, it led to emergence of backward caste regional political powerhouses like Lalu Yadav in Bihar, Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh and many more across states.
It is believed the further sub-categorisation of OBCs for reservation benefits would set in motion another political churn, bringing to the top a new coalition of hitherto non-dominant castes – a development that may prove to be a joy for BJP in coming years as it seeks to destroy the caste equations exploited by regional satraps.
The BJP has experienced how Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was able to create a new caste coalition, and a votebank, for him by sub-categorisation of Dalits, identifying a number of ignored Dalit castes as Mahadalits. This helped Kumar build his own votebank to take on the dominant Muslim-Yadav votebank of RJD’s Lalu Yadav. The sub-categorisation of OBCs may bring similar benefits to the BJP at the national level in 2019.
The panel to be headed by Justice (Retd.) G. Rohini has three terms of references:
- To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of Other Backward Classes with reference to such classes included in the Central List;
- To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such Other Backward Classes; and
- To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of Other Backward Classes and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.
Interestingly, the panel is required to present its report within a period of around three months. After this, the Centre would consider how to implement the recommendations. BJP would have enough time on its hand to decide on when and how to use the recommendations for it Mission 2019.