The mooting of a quota for upper castes is in the same spirit as the Centre's decision last week to include more backward castes in the reserved category, says D.L. Sheth of the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. The "gift" of reservation has become an accepted election-eve phenomenon. Says he: "The government sits on the recommendations of the permanent commission on backward castes until elections are due and then it accepts them."
It was precisely this kind of votebank politics that triggered off the agitation for upper caste quotas in Rajasthan, points out sociologist Yogendra Singh, who was on the technical committee of the Mandal Commission. Prior to the 1999 general elections, the BJP had included Jats in the reserved OBC category. A move that yielded significant short-term electoral gains, but sparked off agitations by virtually every other caste in the state. If a dominant caste like the Jats could get reservation, why not economically deprived Brahmins and Thakurs? "The logic of the Mandal Commission was lost," says Singh.