From Karpoori Thakur to Mayawati, Why Quota Bid For EWS is Not New
From Karpoori Thakur to Mayawati, Why Quota Bid For EWS is Not New
(Photo: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)

From Karpoori Thakur to Mayawati, Why Quota Bid For EWS is Not New

Although this is the first time that a central government has pitched for reservation for economically weaker sections within upper castes, the debate between a quota system based on income and one based on caste is an old one in India.

A day after the Union Cabinet passed a Bill that seeks to amend the Constitution to provide 10 percent reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically backward sections in the general category, the Bill was also passed in the Lok Sabha.

But this isn't the first time that a political party has expressed its inclination towards a quota system based on economic status. Attempts at raising the 50 percent reservation cap imposed by Supreme Court have mostly been turned down by either the apex court itself or by different high courts.


1. Karpoori Thakur Formula in Bihar

Socialist leader and Janata Party chief minister of Bihar, Karpoori Thakur, had introduced 3 percent reservation for poor upper castes in his state. His formula, although tampered with, was followed with respect to the division of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Class(EBCs) in the state by subsequent chief ministers – Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar.

2. Haryana Exceeded SC-Imposed Quota Cap By 17 %

Haryana government passed a Bill on 26 May 2016 granting reservation to Jats and five other communities including Jat Sikhs, Muslim Jats, Bishnois, Rors, and Tyagis, under the special backward class category. It provided 10 percent reservation to economically weaker persons from the general category, thereby taking the total reservation to 67 percent, which exceeded the SC-imposed cap.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the implementation of the new quota scheme till the State Backward Classes Commission finalises the extent of reservation. The commission has been given time till 1 March 2018.

3. From Narasimha Rao to 2014 Poll Manifesto, Congress Pitched For a Income-Based Quota Scheme

When the PV Narasimha Rao-led Congress government was asked for its stand on the implementation of the Mandal Commission report, it maintained that not only will they abide by the reservation rule as per the commission, they will also additionally provide 10 percent reservation for the economically backward sections. The memorandum was however denied by the Supreme Court.

Attempts by Rajasthan governments during the tenures of Vasundhara Raje and Ashok Gehlot were quashed by the high court in the state.

The Congress' own election manifesto before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections stated, "The Indian National Congress is committed to finding a way forward for introducing reservation in education and employment for economically weaker sections of all communities without in any way affecting existing reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes."

4. Mayawati Championed Income-Based Quotas Too

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, on 8 January, called the central government’s move “an election stunt” but said her party welcomes the move.

When Mayawati had become the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2007, she had demanded reservation in jobs for the poor belonging to the upper caste and was well supported by both the BJP and the Congress back then. In 2011 again, Mayawati had written a letter to the then prime minister Manmohan Singh demanding that income-based reservation be included in the ninth schedule of the Constitution so that it could not be challenged in a court of law. She reiterated her demand for a separate quota based on economic status again in 2015 and 2017.

5. SP Promised Commission to Look Into Problems of Upper Caste Poor

Before the 2014 polls, Samajwadi Party too promised to set up a commission or a Savarna Aayog to look into the concerns of the poor among the upper castes.

6. Naidu Hinted at Extension of Reservation to Upper Castes in AP

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, in 2016, had hinted that his government may soon extend reservation for the poor among upper castes. "We will conduct a survey. Based on that we will have no objection to extend reservation benefits to the economically-backward among the upper castes."

7. Gujarat HC Quashed Govt’s 10% Quota Bid For EWS

The state's BJP government had issued an ordinance for 10 percent quota for economically weaker sections among upper castes in May 2016 after the Patidar agitation, but the Gujarat High Court had quashed it in just three months, calling it "unconstitutional".

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