1] Debate on OBC Bill shows new avatar of Mandal politics (Gs 2 Reservation)

Context –

  • During the monsoon session, both Houses of Parliament debated the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021, which saw increased calls from political parties across the board, including National Democratic Alliance (NDA) supporters, for a caste-based census.
  • As a result of this endeavour, which will expose the true extent of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) population, the existing 50 percent reservation cap will be raised.

The scenario –

  • The two more forceful demands are significant in that they signal to the pivot around which Mandal politics, in its third incarnation, is likely to revolve.
  • Regional parties, particularly those that arose after the Mandal Commission’s recommendations were implemented in the 1990s, are at the forefront of these demands.
  • These parties have seen a successful campaign by the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in parsing the non-dominant sections of the OBC from the dominant communities within that category, reaching out to them to build a powerful coalition of upper castes and non-dominant communities among the OBCs and among the Sched in recent elections, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Role of regional parties –

  • The Union government under Mr. Modi, on the other hand, has not released the results of the 2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), and the Justice G. Rohini Commission, which was established to look into OBC sub-categorisation for job and educational institution reservations, has yet to submit its report and is on its 11th extension since it was established in October 2017.
  • Regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have demanded that the BJP empirically determine the correct number of OBCs and then follow the matter to its logical conclusion of raising the 50% reservation cap are seen as ways to call the BJP’s bluff on its commitment to OBCs and seize the political moment.
  • The Mandal parties emphasise the 10% sub-categorisation within the general category quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) among the upper castes in conjunction with this demand. Regional parties are sending a clear message: the BJP’s measures against OBCs must be counterbalanced by demands to keep higher castes on board.
  • Despite having the most OBC MPs, it is critical for the BJP to balance upper caste views, especially in Uttar Pradesh, where they account for about 18-20% of voters.

Delicate Situation –

  • It puts the BJP-led administration in a precarious position at the federal level. A condition that, according to party MPs, may be improved by eventually passing a sub-categorisation plan for job reservations.
  • “It is an unavoidable development, and the party should press for it and seize the initiative,” a former Union Minister and current BJP MP told The Hindu.
  • It’s possible that a new SECC will be conducted when the 2021 census is completed.

Conclusion –

  • The Mandal Commission recommendations have unleashed forces of social and political mobility that are unfolding in diverse ways in each decade.
  • It may be time for political parties, particularly the BJP, to re-engineer their social engineering formula to accommodate the third coming of Mandal politics.


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