A day after the Supreme Court backed the Centre’s 10 per cent quota for the poor or EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) in jobs and education, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar called for a nationwide caste census while his Tamil Nadu counterpart MK Stalin’s party said his government would challenge the decision in court.
The Supreme Court said the quota is not discriminatory and does not alter the basic structure of the constitution. The verdict is a huge victory for the ruling BJP at the Centre, which introduced the quota just before the 2019 general election, after losing three key northern states.
MK Stalin’s party DMK will file a review petition in the Supreme Court. “The verdict hits at the heart of equality enshrined in the constitution,” said the party, stating that the quota is “against social justice and equality” and a setback for the century-old struggle for social justice.
Mr Stalin also called for an all-party meet on Saturday to discuss the way forward.
Nitish Kumar said the 50 per cent cap on reservations in the country should be removed.
“What the Supreme Court ruled was fair enough. We were always in support of the quota. But it is high time that the limit of 50 per cent is raised. The cap is depriving OBCs (Other Backward Classes) and EBCs (Extremely Backward Classes) of opportunities in proportion to their population,” said Mr Kumar, an OBC leader who rose to the national spotlight during the turmoil over the Mandal Commission recommendations for quota for the backward castes.
He called for a fresh estimate of the size of various social groups, adding that he had also raised the need for a caste census with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.
“We were told that states could hold such headcounts. We have undertaken that exercise. But this needs to be done on the national level as well. There must be a rethink on the issue of caste census,” said the Chief Minister.
Mr Kumar’s former ally BJP scoffed at his comments, alleging that he is “obviously unhappy” at the poor upper castes getting quota.
The demand for a removal of the 50 per cent cap was first made by RJD’s Lalu Yadav. Nitish Kumar dumped the BJP and formed a new government with the RJD in August.
The Congress party has backed the Supreme Court decision.
“We welcome it. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should get reservations on the basis of their population. The backward classes should get reservations according to the Mandal commission. We are in favour the court’s decision,” said Bhupesh Baghel, the Chief Minister of Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh.
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