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Thursday , December 20 , 2012
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BJP quota rumblings

New Delhi, Dec. 19: BJP MPs have questioned the party’s support in the Rajya Sabha to the bill on quota for Dalits and tribals in promotions, arguing it will upset upper castes and backward classes and imploring leaders to oppose the amendment in the Lok Sabha.

The rumblings were heard at a meeting of the parliamentary party yesterday where Lok Sabha members from Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka were the “most vocal”, sources said.

They asked Arun Jaitley, Rajya Sabha Opposition leader, to explain what had “compelled” him to back the amendment and what arguments they were supposed to take back to voters in their constituencies, the sources said.

An OBC Lok Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh was among the dissenters. “Our core votes in Uttar Pradesh are drawn from upper castes and OBCs. They believe their progress will be blocked if the Dalits are promoted out of turn. The ultimate beneficiaries will be Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mayawati will keep her Dalit votes and Mulayam will take away those of the OBCs and upper castes,” the MP said.

Another leader countered by saying that even if the party had decided to vote against the change, keeping Uttar Pradesh in mind, the move would have “irreparably” dented its base in states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.

The states have a sizeable tribal and Dalit votes, and the BJP has succeeded over the years in scooping up chunks of these from the Congress.

To this, the Uttar Pradesh MP’s retort was: “Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand combined have 65 Lok Sabha seats while Uttar Pradesh alone has 80. It is time our leaders regard Uttar Pradesh as a special case and not put it on a par with others.”

Some leaders accepted the quota was a compulsion but felt Jaitley could have “prevailed” on the Centre to refer the bill to a standing committee and bought time instead of supporting it right away, the sources said. But Jaitley, L.K. Advani and Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj stood their ground.

This evening, the BJP issued a whip to its Lok Sabha MPs to vote for the amendment when it is tabled in the Lower House tomorrow. But at least one member from Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, urged its withdrawal. “All of us are opposed to it,” he said.