The Gujjar leadership in Rajasthan is divided over the genuineness of the State government’s assurances over its intention to make use of the provisions of the new legislation giving the community the benefit of five per cent reservation. The renewed debate over the issue follows the Gehlot government’s recent decision to go ahead with recruitment of staff on the basis of the old quota as there is a court stay on implementation of the enhanced quota regime.
The government decision, coming as it does on the eve of Panchayati Raj elections in the State, has politicised the reservation issue once again. The move involves jobs for some 50,000 to 60,000 educated unemployed youth.
Announcing the decision to go ahead with the recruitments, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had also made it known that the appointments would be provisional and subject to the final order of the High Court. It was perhaps the feeling that the move would benefit the ruling party politically in the upcoming panchayat elections that prompted former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to question the intentions of the Congress government. The new legislation -- Rajasthan SC, ST, OBC, Special OBC Act, 2008 -- providing five per cent reservation for Gujjars and three other communities and 14 per cent for Economically Backward Classes (EBCs), was enacted by the Rajasthan Assembly during her regime with the then opposition Congress too voting for it.
Ms. Raje, who appears to be on a comeback trail in her own party now, accused the present government of not “doing enough” to get the new law into the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. However, Mr. Gehlot was quick to react pointing out that even items in the Ninth Schedule could be subject to review by the Supreme Court. He accused Ms. Raje of “purposely” including the component of 14 per cent quota for the EBCs in the new Act so that the Court struck down the whole law.
More acrimoniously battling over the issue are the Gujjar leaders on both sides of the political divide. The one-time spearhead of the Gujjars’ agitation for Scheduled Tribe status in Rajasthan, Colonel Kirori Singh Bainsla, termed the government’s recruitment move a step against the interests of the community. He warned the government of a renewed agitation to ensure the benefit of new legislation.
Col. Bainsla, who joined the BJP in the post-agitation scenario to unsuccessfully fight the last Lok Sabha election from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, said he was primarily not concerned with what the courts were doing but with what the government would do. If the government does not take a “positive” stand on reservation, the community might vote accordingly in the coming panchayat polls, he warned.
Col. Bainsla was of the view that the government did not bother to answer the Court’s question why reservations should cross the ceiling of 50 per cent in the State.
The Gujjar leaders belonging to the Congress camp took up the cudgels with the Colonel. “Those who oppose the decision to go ahead with the recruitments may kindly tell us what option the government had in this regard,” said Jitendra Singh, State Energy Minister, who led a delegation of senior Gujjar leaders to the Chief Minister the other day.