| Sonia: Taking a stand
New Delhi, Oct. 27: Sonia Gandhi is likely to convene a meeting of the Congress Working Committee shortly to discuss the Supreme Court’s observations on creating a “creamy layer” while implementing reservation for scheduled castes and tribes.
So far, neither the Congress nor the BJP has given a response even as other parties, including the Left and some UPA constituents, have opposed the concept.
Following the CWC session, the government will call a meeting of the UPA-Left coordination committee to try and formulate an “official” line. After that, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will convene an all-party meeting.
The group of ministers on Dalit affairs, headed by Ram Vilas Paswan, has informally met some leaders to discuss the possibility of thrashing out a consensus on what is becoming another bone of contention between law-makers and the judiciary.
Sources said the exercise is expected to be complete before Parliament’s winter session begins on November 22.
A senior lawyer associated with the Congress believes there is no option other than a constitutional amendment to clarify that there is no creamy layer among SCs and STs.
“There is scope for debate on whether the creamy layer cut-off should apply to the judicially evolved OBC category. But this is the first time that this judgment has applied the creamy layer quota, which was in the context of the OBCs, to SCs and STs,” party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said.
“It must be remembered that the SC/STs are a constitutionally prescribed category and the founding fathers, while including the SC/STs in our Constitution, chose not to limit it to any creamy-layer concept,” he added.
The idea of creaming out a section of the OBCs was born out of the post-Mandal agitation, he added. “There is a mismatch between the SC/STs and the OBCs because every Dalit and every tribal is entitled to certain rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution from his birth. There is no cut-off or layering.”
So far, the Congress has not spoken on the issue, though privately some senior functionaries have shared their views with the media.
Party general secretary Digvijay Singh, for instance, said there was no point in creating a “creamy layer” because the backlog to be filled in reservations for Dalits and tribals was “huge” even after more than 50 years.
He pointed out that only the economically and educationally empowered Dalit sub-castes were equipped to take advantage of reservation. Excluding them would negate the purpose of the policy.
The BJP has set up a committee under M.M. Joshi to study the court’s observations. But other NDA constituents, notably the Janata Dal (United), want a special session of Parliament to take “remedial and constitutional steps”.
Dal (U) leader Sharad Yadav urged the Centre to put all reservation-related issues under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to avoid “judicial interference”.
The CPM and the CPI have made it clear they would oppose any dilution of the reservation quota for SC/STs.
DMK president M. Karunanidhi has written to all chief ministers urging them to join hands against the apex court ruling.