The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Manmohan carries quota agony to bed

New Delhi, April 25: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to bed tonight leaving hundreds of IIM aspirants sleepless and nursing the wounds of a frustrating day in office.

Hours of consultations had thrown up a formula to break the admission deadlock: let the IIMs go ahead with the general category admissions and, if and when the court gives its nod, incorporate the OBC segment later.

However, the formula — devised by Arjun Singh — was not cleared till late tonight as it ran into a wall of resistance erected by a pressure group that took shape during the day.

All or nothing, insisted the lobby, made of familiar pro-quota faces like Lalu Prasad and T.R. Baalu of the DMK.

Unable to turn around the critics of the piecemeal plan, the Prime Minister has decided to raise the issue at the UPA-Left coordination committee meeting tomorrow.

Manmohan seems to be banking on the persuasive skills of the Left to convince Lalu Prasad and the southern allies that students who have cleared CAT should not be kept on tenterhooks till the court takes a decision next month.

At a session of the cabinet committee on political affairs — which became a mini-cabinet meeting with more invitees — the quota camp insisted that if the OBC candidates can wait, so can the general category.

Admission in phases would defeat the “political and social” objectives of the quota law, a minister said. Besides, it would create an impression that the government is going out of its way to accommodate the interests of the general candidates, leaving OBC students at the mercy of “half-hearted” attempts.

Hopes of a breakthrough were running high earlier in the day after Arjun — considered a quota hawk — softened his stand and suggested what many viewed as a practical solution.

“The question is whether we can grant permission for admission of non-reserved category of students and then take up the issue of reserved category when the court decides,” the human resource development minister told a news conference.

He added that “it was a collective decision to keep the admissions on hold. It should also be a collective decision now”.

However, as Arjun chose to go public with his proposal, it was assumed that the political meeting would clear the plan and lift the bar on the admissions.

The admissions were put on hold after the Supreme Court stayed the 27 per cent OBC quota that the Centre had introduced. The Centre has filed an appeal and the next hearing is scheduled for May 8.

The cabinet committee, chaired by the Prime Minister and including top Congress leaders besides allies like Lalu Prasad and Sharad Pawar, met at night to decide whether to allow general category admissions to proceed.

IIM sources said the admission procedures need not be cut short if the directive comes in a couple of days.

“We are eagerly awaiting the decision of the central government on the issue,” a source at IIM Ahmedabad said.

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