The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gehlot’s quota gets Sonia blessings

Srinagar, May 31: After yesterday’s pat for acting against VHP leader Praveen Togadia, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot today picked up more accolades as Congress president Sonia Gandhi endorsed his government’s decision to earmark 14 per cent reservation for the economically weaker among upper castes.

At a news conference to mark the conclusion of the fifth two-day conclave of Congress chief ministers, Sonia not only endorsed Gehlot’s quota move but also reinforced his demand before the Centre for a constitutional amendment to enable his government to implement the upper caste quota.

The Congress chief disagreed with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s proposal to set up a commission to look into the issue of quotas for the economically backward classes (EBCs). There was no need for a commission, she said, adding that an amendment would be enough.

She did not think there was anything political in Gehlot’s move. The Congress has been advocating upper caste quota for over 10 years, she said, referring to the then P.V. Narasimha Rao government’s aborted decision to grant 10 per cent reservation to the EBCs. Even the Congress election manifesto for last year’s Assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh had promised it, she added.

Sonia’s endorsement of Gehlot’s move came as a virtual dismissal of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh’s proposal yesterday for a diversity law to promote private sector employment for SCs, STs and other backward classes. Digvijay had seen no merit in focusing on PSU and government jobs as the availability of such jobs was shrinking.

It also meant that the party did not favour general secretary Vayalar Ravi’s proposal, made at the conclave earlier today, favouring a reservation policy for the private sector. Making his presentation on employment and labour reforms, Ravi even proposed that the Congress chief ministers could initiate necessary legislation in their respective states in this regard.

However, senior party leader Salman Khursheed told reporters that the conclave did not discuss the issue of reservation in the private sector.

“We only discussed reservation in PSUs and the government,” he said.

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