The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Piece of paper lights quota fire
Much Arjun ado over note

New Delhi, May 14: A piece of A3-size paper has created havoc in Delhi and much of the rest of the country over reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in higher educational institutions.

Tucked under the glass on the table of Pulak Chatterjee, joint secretary to the National Advisory Council that used to be headed by Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister’s Office, the paper is divided into several columns.

It lists the government’s common minimum programme (CMP) commitments, the name of the parent ministry against each item, legislative and administrative action taken and the response from each department.

In Delhi’s corridors of power, Chatterjee is viewed as a powerful bureaucrat enjoying proximity to Sonia as well as the Prime Minister.

With the government’s report card getting ready to mark two years of the Manmohan Singh regime, a note signed by Chatterjee made its way to human resource development minister Arjun Singh. For Arjun, a word from Chatterjee is a word from Sonia, expressing her desire for quick implementation.

The PMO has been insisting that it was a routine communication sent to all ministries concerned as part of preparing the report.

The government plans to issue a series of books showcasing its achievements. At the preparatory level, the report card boasts of having acted upon over 70 per cent of the promises made in the CMP.

Arjun seized on this “routine” missive to start a controversy that has reached dangerous proportions. Sources close to him said he was drawing strength from Chatterjee’s note and arguing that he was merely fulfilling his duty.

Manmohan and Sonia have maintained silence, though the quota agitation is leading to violence and strikes.

At the centre of the controversy, Arjun is aware he would not become a casualty of the reservation battle because Sonia ' or any other leader ' is unlikely to oppose the concept for political reasons.

The minister rejected calls to re-examine the proposal today. “We are a democracy and not a banana republic. You cannot hijack the process and browbeat me. There is no need for desperation and anger. Their (the students’) issues can be resolved with patience,” he said.

Exuding defiance, he took a potshot at the Knowledge Commission, formed by the Prime Minister, most of whose members have rejected quotas.

Arjun said: “With all due respect to the great Knowledge Commission, I must point out to them that they are not above the Constitution.”


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