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Quota boot on other foot: Brahmins join clamour

Jaipur, Feb. 3: Scheduled castes to other backward classes to Brahmins — it now seems to be the turn of the uppermost caste in Rajasthan to cry for quotas.

Grouped under the banner of the Rajasthan Brahmin Mahasabha, the higher-ups on the caste ladder are demanding 15 per cent reservation on grounds of ‘economic backwardness’.

The Brahmins have been holding a series of rallies to push their cause. Not only have the meetings been huge draws, Congress and BJP leaders have not hesitated to share the dais and speak in one voice.

At the third rally in Alwar yesterday — thousands thronged the venue from Alwar and adjoining Bharatpur district — the Brahmins were adamant that they get their due.

“It is highly unjustified that our children were denied jobs despite scoring 80 or 90 per cent marks.”

According to Suresh Mishra, president of the Akhil Rajasthan Sarva Brahmin Mahasabha, the point of the rallies was to “demonstrate the power of the 60 lakh-strong but deprived Brahmins of the state who are being discriminated against so much”.

The next two will be held in Shahpura on February 12 and Bundi on February 23.

Sharing the dais were state minister for higher education Shailendra Joshi, parliamentary secretary Mamata Sharma and Congress MLA R.P. Sharma. Among the BJP line-up were veteran Hari Shankar Bhabhra; state vice-president Ghanshyam Tiwari; former minister Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi and MLA Rohitash Kumar.

Student leaders Pranvendra Sharma of the BJP and Somendra Sharma of the Congress — the sons of VHP leader Acharya Dharmendra — were also present.

BJP legislator Rohitash Kumar hinted that the Brahmins planned to extract their pound of flesh in the November Assembly elections. “It is time to organise ourselves as a vote bank and get our due,” he said.

Mishra questioned why the Brahmins should get a raw deal when political parties were blatantly playing the caste card. Referring to the Congress recently appointing two deputy chief ministers — a Jat and a Dalit — in the state, he asked: “(When parties) have decided to fill their top slots on caste basis, why should Brahmins be ignored'”

Some time ago, even the Opposition BJP had replaced state president Bhanwar Lal Sharma — a Brahmin — with Vasundhara Raje — a Rajput — to fill the vacuum created by the appointment of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as Vice- President.

No party should be under the mistaken impression that the Brahmins could be ignored and caste equations exploited, Mishra warned.

Earlier, the mahasabha had organised a rally in Dausa as part of its strategy to set up Brahmin ‘power centres’ close to Jaipur to draw the government’s attention.

Brahmin leaders have been ‘campaigning’ to ensure big turnouts at the rallies.

The mahasabha believes that the reservation policy in the state has resulted in serious “imbalances”.

One such policy is the “appeasement of Jats”, who were granted reservation on the eve of the 1999 general elections.

Mishra said that while there were 17 Brahmin legislators in the 200-member Assembly, there were only two Brahmin MPs from Rajasthan.

This indicated the poor political, social, economic and educational status of the community which till recently was considered a social elite.

The mahasabha has asserted that a panel be immediately set up to look into its demand.

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