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Quota battle looms in UP

New Delhi, Dec. 15: Friday’s flash strike by over 15 lakh government employees in Uttar Pradesh was the first indication that the political battle lines between the Samajwadi Party and the BSP have got reinforced.

The strike was called in protest against the Centre’s decision to bring a quota for Dalits and tribals for promotions in government jobs after BSP chief Mayawati’s relentless push in Parliament. Samajwadi was the only party to openly dissent.

Mayawati, in her speech on the bill, however said she would not have an issue if the OBCs and the economically backward classes were also included. A BSP source said: “That was a balancing act she sought to do.”

Samajwadi sources said they were already propagating the line that Mayawati had reneged on her call for a “sarvajan samaj” based on equality of caste and religion by “working exclusively” for her core Dalit constituency.

“How does anyone else but a Dalit employee benefit from this provision?” asked a Samajwadi source.

The Samajwadi Party is projecting itself as the “sole saviour” of the OBCs and the upper castes — constituents whose support it managed to weld in the 2012 Assembly elections.

But once Akhilesh Yadav was installed as the chief minister and a series of incidents challenged his control over law and order, the upper castes became less enthusiastic. Suddenly the buzz was about how Mayawati had been on top of her job and had ensured people’s safety and security.

Political sources said an added reason for upper caste “disenchantment” with the Samajwadi rule was the perception that as proxy chief minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav was back to “minority appeasement”.

The pro-activism displayed by senior minister Azam Khan, who Mulayam had reined in earlier, further fuelled the charge that Muslims had a “free run” under Akhilesh. A spate of communal clashes that were not snuffed out immediately gave grist to the “appeasement” theory.

But BSP and Samajwadi sources say Mayawati’s plan to revive her “sarvajan samaj” plank might be derailed by her insistence on reservation in promotions.

The Congress and the BJP have got squeezed out of the main political frame.

A BJP Rajya Sabha MP confessed: “As usual we stand divided.”

The OBC lobby, led by Uttar Pradesh MP Vinay Katiyar, tried hard to prevail on the leaders to walk out of the House when the bill came up. However, the leaders made it clear that regardless of how Uttar Pradesh’s caste politics played out, the BJP had a “larger” Dalit and tribal constituency outside the state to address. “We have the tag of being anti-minorities. How can we afford to alienate the SC and STs?” asked a source.