The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihar parallel in MP

Bhopal, July 2: Digvijay Singh may have dealt Uma Bharti a blow by increasing the job quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) to 27 per cent, but the chief minister has tacitly acknowledged that Madhya Pradesh has remained backward after his 10-year rule.

A gazette resolution justifying the increase in reservation from 14 to 27 per cent has cited nine points — low per capita income, inadequate communication network, low industrial growth, mostly subsistence level of agriculture, lack of irrigation facilities, low literacy levels, low rural electrification, low urbanisation and a high percentage of people living below the poverty line — to make out a special case for Madhya Pradesh.

These nine points formed the core of Union minister Arun Jaitley’s criticism that Madhya Pradesh has not made much progress under Digvijay. But the chief minister had stoutly denied Jaitley’s charge, claiming that the state had made “tremendous stride” in human resources development and that he was following Amartya Sen’s dictum of investing in the social sector for faster economic growth.

The state government’s gazette resolution has extensively quoted the Supreme Court verdict in the Indira Sawaheny versus Union of India (petition number 930\90) case that job reservation should not exceed 50 per cent except in “extraordinary situations”, such as far-flung and remote areas.

Citing precedence from Orissa, which has 63 per cent reservation, the government notification said special circumstances exist in Madhya Pradesh. “Compared to the all-India average of development indicators, the states of Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh are extremely backward and, therefore, deserve special attention that has been constitutionally recognised, as is evident from the provisions of the clause (1) of Article 164.”

Increase in job quota is a major political issue in election-bound Madhya Pradesh. Backward classes, which form the bulk of Bharti’s support base, account for an overwhelming 52 per cent of the population.

Digvijay’s move is aimed at making a dent in BJP votes.

Coupled with his government’s much-touted Dalit agenda for the empowerment of weaker sections, the chief minister is determined to woo 70 per cent of the population.

Legal experts said there were several “teething problems” before Digvijay’s poll plank could come into force. For instance, a bill envisaging similar increase in job quota is pending before the Centre. The experts added that unless that bill is disposed of, the Assembly cannot push through another bill on similar lines.

The Assembly is meeting on July 28, limiting the option of introducing an Ordinance.

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