Prime Minister sets up GoM to look into reservation issue

New Delhi, May 17 | Updated: May 18 2006, 05:30am hrs
In the bid to hammer out an amicable solution to the controversial quota issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday set up a four-member group of ministers (GoM) to work out a mechanism for implementing a quota regime that would address the concerns of all the parties.

Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD minister Arjun Singh, finance minister P Chidambaram and law minister HR Bhardwaj will comprise the high-powered panel that will attempt to devise ways to provide advantage to OBCs in elite educational institutions including IITs and IIMs while keeping the sentiments voiced by those against such quota regime in mind.

The GoM will draw out a mechanism to implement the quota proposal as was agreed upon at the recent Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, said a senior member of the government. But there is no time limit specified, he added.

Wednesdays move by the Prime Minister means that the issue will be set aside for some time now. The issue, which does not figure in the Cabinet agenda for Thursday, is unlikely to be raised in the Cabinet given that Prime Minister had on Tuesday itself sought to clear the air with Mr Singh.

Sources said the GoM, which met on Wednesday evening briefly, would consider the viewpoints of not only the various pro and anti-reservation groups but also try to take all the political parties into confidence.

While emphasis would be on having the quotas implemented by increasing the seats in the educational institutions, they indicated that this may be done in phases to cushion the effect of reservation.

Meanwhile, the BJP said the government should immediately spell out its stand on reservation clearly. Chiding the UPA government for having spoken in different voices, party spokesman VK Malhotra said, Though Arjun Singh, Kapil Sibal and Pranab Mukherjee have been saying different things, Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi have been conspicuous by their silence.