By Faisal Fareed, TwoCircles.net
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav mooted the development agenda for forthcoming assembly polls, ushering in a new wave and hope that for once UP will witness poll battle on development. But ultimately he has also succumbed to caste equations.
The OBCs have remained the focal point in the politics of Hindi heartland. Last year during the polls in Bihar, they stood with Nitish Kumar ensuring his victory. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, they supported BJP and ensured its thumping victory.
Following his father Mulayam’s footsteps, Akhilesh also has taken the decision of inclusion of 17 Most Backward Classes in Scheduled Caste category. Though Akhilesh while chairing the cabinet meeting on Thursday cleared 74 other proposals, the most important proposal was granting SC status to 17 MBCs. As per the cabinet decision these 17 caste are sub caste of five SC castes—Shilpkaar, Manjhwar, Gond, Turaiyah and Beldaar and hence they have been categorised as SCs. A government notification will be issued after which they can avail the facilities of SC. For further issues, the proposal will be sent to the central government.
Which are these 17 MBCs>
The 17 MBCs are Rajbhar, Nishad, Prajapati, Mallah, Kahar, Kashyap, Kumhar Dheemar, Bind, Bhar, Kewat, Dheemar, Batham, Machua, Manjhi, Turah and Gond.
Are they politically important
Yes, these castes constitute nearly 13.63% of UP’s population. Among them, Nishad caste along with its sub-castes constitute nearly 10.25%, Rajbhar are 1.32%, Prajapati are 1.84% and Gond are 0.22%. All previous governments, including Mulayam and Mayawati and Akhilesh, have sent proposals to include them in SC category.
What is the stand of all political parties and leaders?
Mulayam Singh Yadav:
He was the first person to tap the political importance of these 17 MBCs. He took the first initiative when he gave a ticket to former dacoit Phoolan Devi who hailed from these castes and she was elected as MP in 1996. Mulayam in his last regime has also sent a proposal to Central government for inclusion of these 17 castes in SC category. In 2005, he had issued a notification for their inclusion in SC category and caste certificates were issued on this ground. But it was challenged in court.
After coming to power in 2007, Mayawati withdrew Mulayam government’s proposal and sent a fresh proposal stating that these 17 MBCs may be included in SC category and the reservation quota of SC be increased so that they can be given reservation. It was done as she did not want to antagonise her Dalit vote bank which will offended in sharing their existing reservation quota. During her tenure these 17 caste remained in OBC category.
During his whole tenure, CM Akhilesh Yadav kept the issue alive. He formed a sub-committee of state assembly headed by social welfare minister Awadesh Prasad which recommended that these 17 caste be included in SC category. It has also recommended that the report on the socio-economic status of these caste conducted by SC ST Educational Research Centre and the reply of 18 queries as required by central government be sent. He also had sent a similar proposal to the central government in 2013 and even wrote to social justice and empowerment minister. The proposal was not acceded to.
Akhilesh declared April 5 as a public holiday to mark the birth anniversary of Maharaj Nishad Raj. Leaders of these communities like Shankhlal Manjhi, Gayatri Prasad Prajapati were appointed minister and another Rajpal Kashyap was appointed MLC. Two conventions of these 17 MBCs were also held at the party office in Lucknow.
Another major decision which Akhilesh took was to earmark 7.5% quota for these 17 MBCs in over 80 schemes for the social welfare schemes run by the state government.
In 2007 Congress in its election manifesto had promised to include 13 castes of Nishad community in SC category.
In 2012 election manifesto, the BJP too had promised SC status to these 17 MBC and also to Biyar, Nonia, Chauhan, Lonia and Banjara castes.
Will this move reap benefits for the SP?
SP is focussing on two advantages from this decision. The first, and rather obvious, advantage is that it is likely to get support from these 17 MBCs on grounds that it is favouring their SC status and the ball in centre’s court. The other advantage, which few have spoken about, is that the SP wants these 17 MBCs to be out from OBC category. The reason is that then they will no longer claim 27% reservation under OBC category. This will benefit Yadavs who are core voters of SP and are dominant caste in OBC. They will be thus relieved from competition from these 17 MBCs in their quota of 27% reservation.
How SC status is given to castes
Only the Parliament has the right to include or exclude any caste from SC category. State government can only send proposals to the central government. The proposal should be accompanied with reasons. The proposal may be taken up by the central government which, after consultation with Registrar General of India and National SC Commission, will place it before the Parliament. Experts claim that for the inclusion of any caste in SC category, the most important issue is that they should have been a victim of untouchability.