The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quota for new friends, kick for old foes

May 13: Immediately after being sworn in, Mayavati today moved to reward the new vote banks that helped her become chief minister: Brahmins and Muslims.

She promised to ensure reservation based on economic criteria which, if introduced, would for the first time give the upper castes the benefit of quotas.

“If the Centre brings an amendment for reservation for the poor among upper castes and religious minorities, we will welcome it. If not, we’ll take our own measures in Uttar Pradesh,” she said.

A job quota can prove trickier than an education quota, but Mayavati didn’t clarify which she had meant.

The 93rd constitutional amendment bill, which led to the 27 per cent Other Backward Classes reservation in central institutions, allows the Centre and the states to enact their own reservation laws on education. Such a quota for the poor from all communities is unlikely to attract legal challenges and should find Left support.

But in a 1993 Mandal Commission case, the Supreme Court had accepted that caste can be an important — or even the “sole” — factor in determining the beneficiaries of job reservation, and that poverty alone cannot be a criterion.

There’s another hurdle, too. As in other states, the OBC and SC/ST quotas together come up to 49.5 per cent in Uttar Pradesh, while the apex court has capped reservation at 50 per cent. Tamil Nadu’s violation of the limit is being decided by the court.

Rewards weren’t the lone motif of Mayavati’s first day in office, though. High-profile friends of predecessor Mulayam Singh Yadav, and officials loyal to him, felt the heat of her decisions.

The Uttar Pradesh Development Council, which counted Amitabh Bachchan, Kumarmangalam Birla, Anil Ambani and Subroto Roy as its members, was dissolved because it was “useless”. Its chairman, Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, had quit last night.

The council had prepared a special economic zone policy and arranged land for a controversial power project by Ambani Junior at Dadri. “There is no point running it,” Mayavati said.

She suspended three senior officials — PWD principal secretary S.K. Agarwal, Lucknow Development Authority vice-chairman B.B. Singh and LDA chief engineer D.R. Yadav — for neglecting the upkeep of the Ambedkar Memorial Park. A probe has been ordered against retired chief engineer R.S. Yadav on the same charge.

The LDA and PWD had begun cleaning up the 10-year-old park, dotted with statues of Dalit icons, after the poll results started coming out but Mayavati wasn’t impressed.

She, however, launched into her own clean-up, transferring 97 IPS officers by late evening. She overhauled the chief minister’s secretariat and created the post of a cabinet secretary, unusual in a state. The job has gone to Shashank Shekhar Singh.

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