The recommendation of the Union Cabinet to set up a commission to look into sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) seems to be the continuation of a political path taken by the BJP to upset the settled categories of Mandal politics.
By setting up a commission to look into the feasibility of parsing the larger category of the OBCs into extremely backward and other categories, the Union government is attempting to redress the domination of certain OBC castes over others, by applying the sub-categorisation in access to government jobs and other resources.
If the commission recommends subcategorisation, it could lead to a break in the political homogenisation of OBCs, especially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
In the last Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP successfully deployed the political stratagem to break this monolithic OBC vote cornered by the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the State by distributing at least 40% of the party ticket to candidates from non-Yadav OBC backgrounds.
Of the 370 seats that it announced in the run-up to the polls, nearly 148 seats were given to non-Yadav OBCs and the rest evenly distributed among Brahmins, Rajputs and certain non-Jatav Dalit candidates.
The party also chose current Deputy Chief Minister, Keshav Prasad Maurya, a non-Yadav OBC at its State unit chief, again in the run-up to the elections. The attempt was clearly to parse the non-Yadav OBCs from the SP and other smaller formation, and send a powerful message of political empowerment via the BJP. However, this strategy was not used in Bihar where the BJP favoured Yadavs while distributing ticket and had come a cropper.
The subcategorisation will help mobilise the communities that feel that they are a neglected segment of OBCs because of the numerical and political dominance of certain communities within this category.
The move is bound to make the Mandal parties such as the SP, and Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) uncomfortable and will provide a platform for the BJP for expansion in States such as Andhra Pradesh. Just how much will it define post-Mandal politics is to be seen.