The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong claims credit for quota move

New Delhi, Oct. 4: After the government’s green light, the battle over patent rights.

A day after the Vajpayee government set in motion the process for a legislation to provide job reservations for economically backward classes, the Congress is claiming credit for the move.

Party spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy reminded that it was the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan that took the initiative through a cabinet decision urging the Centre to enact a law for 14 per cent reservation for economically weak upper castes.

The Gehlot-led Congress government’s decision, he added, flowed from the party’s commitment to provide reservation for the weaker among the forward castes. In 1992, Reddy recalled, the then Congress government at the Centre headed by P.V. Narasimha Rao had issued an executive order reserving 10 per cent jobs in government and public sector units for the upper-caste poor.

If it did not come into force, it was because the order was struck down by the Supreme Court, which fixed the total reservation at 49 per cent. It required an amendment to the Constitution to enhance the ceiling. The Congress, Reddy emphasised, underlined its commitment to the idea by including it in its manifesto for last year’s Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.

The Vajpayee government, he said, has only acted on the party’s agenda and not on its own. But even in this, he added, the BJP has not been sincere. If it was, the government could have come up with an amendment bill and got it passed during Parliament’s monsoon session, he asserted.

“The Vajpayee government has belatedly taken the decision to legislate on the issue only because it wants to take electoral advantage of it in the coming elections,” Reddy said. However, he dodged a direct reply when pointed out that the Gehlot government, too, had raised the issue only on poll eve. “It was acting on pressure of a public movement” that pressed the case for reservation, he said.

Both the Congress and the BJP are vying for upper-caste votes in Rajasthan. Upper castes constitute close to 18 per cent of the population of the state. The Social Justice Front of Brahmin, Rajput and Baniya leaders has been at the forefront of the reservation movement which, the Congress believes, could hurt the BJP as the party traditionally derives its strength from the upper castes.

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