The quota politics looks like to turn into a murkier one with some of the political parties suggesting reservation for various castes in proportion to their respective share in the population. The divisive minority voting mechanism would further alienate various section of the society. It recalls the divisive idea of separate electorates – minorities voting their own representatives separately – that threatened to come into vogue during the British Raj. Already, Jats are on the warpath in Uttar Pradesh demanding a separate quota for themselves, unhappy with the 10% forward quota. In time, more caste groups are certain to echo the Jats sentiments. Meanwhile, the caste census demand is gaining strength given the OBC grouse as the quota for them is disproportionate to their population. Having built political capital around their success in getting VP Singh to implement the Mandal Commission report, the forward quota has given contemporary socialists just the opening to push for Mandal 2.0. What was one government’s political tack becomes the other one’s cross to bear. Amid political obsession with carving up the finite employment and education pool, the pressing task of upgrading universities to meet global standards and creating new jobs remains unaddressed. A new education financing model, offering scholarships and loans at nominal interest rates, and meeting twin aims of access to higher education and preserving financial autonomy for universities, must replace quotas. That is, if the quota system doesn’t break India first. The precedent of 1991 where crisis became the harbinger of economic reforms raises hope. The decision comes four months before the Lok Sabha polls and after the reverses suffered by BJP in the Assembly polls in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The BJP was said to have faced the wrath of the upper castes, especially in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, over the amendment brought by the Central government to nullify the Supreme Court judgement in the SC-ST Act.
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