Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday made two tactical moves — his cabinet approved a proposal to request the central government to provide ‘special category status’ to Bihar and to send a recommendation to the Centre to place the recent reservation amendment act for jobs in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.
The moves signal the intent of Nitish to politically weaponise the long-pending demand for special category status for Bihar and the recently hiked quota for the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Castes (OBC) and Extremely Backward Castes (EBC) from 50 per cent to 65 per cent in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Both the steps could help him channelise caste and state identities and emotions to counter the BJP’s planks of religion and ultra-nationalism in the polls. He had recently announced a campaign to demand special category status for Bihar.
“The cabinet approved the state government’s decision to send a recommendation to the Centre to place The Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (For Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes) Act, 1991, along with the related amendment acts of 2002 and 2023 in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, which comes under Article 31B of the Constitution of India,” cabinet department additional chief secretary S. Siddharth said.
The Ninth Schedule contains a list of central and state laws that cannot be challenged in the courts. It was created through the insertion of Article 31B by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, which shields specific laws or enactments from judicial review.
Placing the Bihar reservation laws and the recent amendment to hike the quota from 50 per cent to 65 per cent in the Ninth Schedule will shield it from being challenged in the high court or the Supreme Court, which has often held in its judgments that reservation in jobs cannot cross the upper ceiling of 50 per cent.
Earlier this year, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel had made a similar demand after increasing the quota for SC, ST and OBC to 76 per cent.
As far as the demand for special category status is concerned, Siddharth said: “Bihar will join the developed states quickly if it gets the special category status.”