It is a catch-22 situation that is likely to haunt the Congress-led government in Rajasthan sooner or later. On Wednesday night when Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced that the state Cabinet had approved the OBC commission’s report on granting 5 per cent quota for five special backward classes (SBC), including the agitating Gurjjars, taking the total reservation in the state to 54 per cent, he was perhaps fooling no one but himself.
What the local media quickly called ‘old wine in a new bottle’ is not any farther from the truth. In 2008, Vasundhara Raje’s government had given in to protests by Gurjjars and passed a Bill granting 5 per cent reservation to SBCs and another 14 per cent to the economically backward classes. This was challenged in the high court and stayed indefinitely.
Apprehending the same fate, the Gurjjars, led by Kirori Singh Bainsla, this time round stated that the community expected the government to grant them reservation within the 50 per cent quota. The OBC commission came up with a ‘confidential report’ earlier this week recommending 5 per cent reservation for SBC but within the total 50 per cent quota. The logical break up was to accommodate this 5 per cent within the existing 21 per cent of OBC quota. But with uncomfortable noises from the dominant Jat community, who would obviously be affected by a shrinking share, Gehlot insisted that the OBC commission doesn’t make any recommendation to rework the OBC quota. After keeping the report confidential for a few days and despite a desperate thinking cap on, Gehlot could not come up with anything better than his predecessor Raje.
Within hours of the announcement, the Gurjjars said that they will wait for two months to see whether the government manages to implement it without any judicial impediments and sought an assurance from the CM. There’s can’t be any doubt that this will be challenged in court by dissenting groups. And so, there can be no sitting on the fence for Gehlot. The CM has to take his pick — Jats or Gurjjars.
Sweta is a senior correspondent based in Jaipur