Cong’s quota conundrum
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Is the Congress being penny wise and pound foolish in riding piggyback on the BSP to push through the Constitution amendment Bill for SC, ST quota in promotions? There is growing unease in a section of the party, and OBC parliamentarians led by Congress MP V Hanumantha Rao have already taken the SP line on the inclusion of the OBCs.
While BSP chief Mayawati is catering to her core constituency of Dalits, SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav gets to consolidate his OBC stronghold. Although the BJP is in a dilemma, given its traditional upper castes constituency and recent conquests in tribal areas, it is ultimately the ruling party which has to face the ire of the have nots.
Many party leaders believe the Congress would be the only loser. Post-Mandal Congress owed its revival to "aspirational India" and this constituency could get further alienated. Besides, the Congress would be blamed if the legislation does not stand judicial scrutiny.
Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati was wary in his brief to the government. "The proposed amendments may be vulnerable to challenge on the ground that the basic structure (of the Constitution) is violated. Any amendments are likely to be challenged and it is difficult to predict what the Court would hold," he said.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh calls it "a matter of ideology and principle rather than political expediency". The litmus test will be the coming Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections. The Congress had witnessed a big erosion in its traditional votebank in these states in 2007. Out of the 13 SC seats in Gujarat Assembly, the BJP won 11 as against the Congress's 2; the tally was 11 and 14 in the ST seats for the BJP and the Congress respectively. In Himachal Pradesh Assembly, the Congress has 7 SC seats as against BJP's 8; the BJP also won all the three ST seats in 2007.
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