JAIPUR: The Rajasthan assembly on Tuesday passed two bills granting 5% reservation to Gujjar-led special backward classes (SBC) and 14% to economically backward classes (EBC), taking the total quota quantum in the state to over 50% — the upper ceiling that twice felled quota laws of the state.
The Vasundhra Raje government also pushed through resolutions urging the Centre to place the twin bills in the 9th schedule of the Constitution to buffer them from legal scrutiny.
Interestingly, the hurried decision of the state came a day after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat stirred a storm by suggesting that the reservation system be reviewed. The two are, however, unlikely to be linked as the bills are a result of a long process.
If the Raje regime passed the legislations despite knowing the pitfalls of breaching the halfway mark and introducing quotas on economic criteria that are legally untenable, as flagged by two MLAs in the assembly, the recurring protests by Gujjars are seen as the provocation.
The government hopes to prove its bona fide through its demand to the Centre that the bills be put in the 9th schedule.
It, however, poses a tricky question for the Centre to heed the state’s prayer for 9th schedule as it may open the floodgates for similar pleas from other states.
Given the polarization around quotas in Rajasthan society, it is anticipated that the two bills will be challenged in the high court the moment they are signed by the governor.
As of now, quotas in state jobs and educational institutions stand at 49% and the fresh measures will stretch it to 68%.
It is deja vu for experts and beneficiaries. Under pressure from Gujjars, the Raje government in 2008 had passed the same SBC and EBC quotas though as part of the same bill. It was stayed by the high court in 2009 when the succeeding Ashok Gehlot government tried to implement it.
It was on the advice of legal experts and Gujjars that the state brought separate bills for the two categories this time around.
The chequered history of quotas had another tryst with the legal process when the high court stayed 5% SBC quota introduced by the Gehlot government in 2012. While the chief minister did not introduce the EBC quota this time, the total quota still reached 54%. As a consequence, the court struck down 4% excess quota and 1% SBC quota is still in operation.
Despite the uncertainty over the fate of the bills, parliamentary affairs minister Rajendra Rathore exuded confidence. “We drafted both the bills after detailed discussions with experts. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha too have reservation beyond 50%. Also, the Constitution preamble allows policies to be framed to remove economic and social backwardness,” he said.
A riled Congress questioned the government’s sincerity. “If this government is really serious about reservation on economic basis, it should first get the Constitution appropriately amended,” leader of opposition Rameshwar Dudi said, accusing the Raje government of misleading the people on EBC quota.