The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP forces quota retreat

Lucknow, Aug. 30: Within 20 hours of issuing a government diktat reserving 50 per cent of the seats in sports hostels and colleges for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, the Uttar Pradesh government today withdrew it following stiff resistance from the BJP members.

In a cryptic statement, chief minister Mayavati claimed that the controversial order — which invited criticism from Union sports minister Vikram Verma — had been issued without her knowledge. Holding principal secretary Harishchandra responsible for the order, she suspended him for the “folly”.

“This is such an important policy matter and I was not even informed about it. The sports secretary has taken this decision on his own. I am in-charge of this department but he did not speak to me about it,” the statement said.

Political observers in the state, however, say it would be almost impossible for Harishchandra to pass such an order without the consent of the chief minister.

The BJP, the coalition partner of the BSP, apparently wants to soft-pedal the issue. Party chief Vinay Katiyar said: “I have come to Lucknow today and was not aware of any such decision. She (Mayavati) would have taken the best decision suited to both major coalition partners.”

While it remains to be seen how an officer could take a policy decision without the approval of the concerned minister — in this case Mayavati herself — the chief minister has, in her over three-month tenure, reversed many decisions, causing acrimony between the BJP and the BSP.

Few days after assuming command, Mayavati had announced the formation of a coordination committee to ensure better rapport between the government and alliance partners and also chaired a meeting of the committee. Later, when the BJP protested against her decision to exclude party presidents from the committee, she denied its very existence.

Mayavati also did a volte-face on the issue of free distribution of textbooks to primary school students. On August 3, she had announced that it would be restricted to Dalit pupils and girls regardless of their caste. Faced with criticism, she later went back on her word.

In a separate order, the government today directed that 21 per cent fair price shops would be allotted to SCs, 2 per cent to STs and 27 per cent to OBCs, adds PTI.

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