Caste census is complex. Let states do it first: K Laxman, National President, BJP’s OBC Morcha

The demand for the enumeration of people belonging to other backward classes (OBCs) is becoming a political hot potato for the ruling BJP. The party is committed to doing it, but states ought to do it first, says K Laxman, national president of BJP‘s OBC Morcha and former head of the party’s Telangana unit. Edited excerpts from an interview with Prerna Katiyar:

It is almost seven years since BJP OBC Morcha was formed. What are its big achievements?

Since Narendra Modi became PM in 2014, he has been working on the modalities for the empowerment and uplift of OBC. There have been historic decisions, like giving constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) in 2018. It was done 23 years after the Mandal Commission recommendations were implemented. Prior to that, the commission was almost toothless. Hardly 14-15% reservation could be given out of 27% (OBC quota). There was no check on any ministry or organisation. Now, with the constitutional status, recruitment has touched 22% in all government institutions in four years. In educational institutions also, though the process of implementation could be started in 2008, many did not implement it. This academic year, Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya pathshalas, law universities and Sainik schools have started giving reservation. Almost four lakh students have benefitted already.

After Modi came to power, he has given 27% reservation in NEET and some 4,000 students have benefitted. There are 27 OBC ministers in the cabinet for the first time since Independence, which is 40%. Earlier, children of PSU employees were not getting reservation. They are getting it now. Look at backlog posts: throughout the country we have 42 central universities and there are hardly 10-12 OBC professors. The excuse was that eligible candidates were not available. The backlog had reached 9,000. So, our Morcha met (education minister) Dharmendra Pradhan who has ordered that in one year all backlog posts should be filled. In 3-4 months, 3,000 posts have already been filled.

If OBCs have 22% share in central government jobs, what is the percentage in educational institutions?

It is very less — only 10-12%. We want strict implementation of 27% quota. NCBC members took suo moto action against some institutions. Had it been implemented in the last 10 years, lakhs of students would have benefitted.

What about caste census? Why is there a delay in holding it?

We have some technical problems, legal issues and constraints. There are a lot of complexities — in Bihar, Guptas are OBC while they are forward class in UP. Brahmin Joshis are forward in other states but OBC in Uttarakhand. In Andhra Pradesh, Reddys are forward caste but are backward in Karnataka. Kammas are forward in Andhra and backward in Karnataka. So, we took a stand that let the census take place state-wise. Recently, the 127th Constitution Amendment Bill was passed, giving full powers to states to identify which community is OBC as the Centre is not aware of the status of one caste in the entire country. We are not saying no, but it has to be thoroughly studied before a national-level survey is conducted.

Can we expect it before 2024?

It needs a thorough study.

What is the status of the state-wise survey?
Only 4-5 states have done it. Karnataka did it when Siddaramaiah was the CM, but the results were not published because they came to know that more than 60% population is OBC. Telangana has done a survey but after knowing the reality, they did not publish it. Now, Nitish Kumar keeps asking for it, but why can’t he get it done in Bihar?

Creamy layer revision is also pending

The income limit was revised from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh by this government. The revision should happen soon.

A growing trend is to fill vacancies in central and state governments by hiring contractual workers. But that has no provision for reservation.

This is most unfortunate. This way, we are denying the rights of OBCs and the downtrodden. This is being done in states where mostly regional parties are in power.

This should end. Last year, 50,000 posts in railways were filled, with 27% for OBCs. Now a separate VC funding has been created for OBCs. Modiji wants the youth of the country — be it backward, SC or forward — to be a job creator and not a seeker. VC funding was confined to SCs during Congress rule. Since 2019, we have earmarked Rs 200 crore per annum to OBCs.

A four-member commission headed by Justice (retd) G Rohini was set up in 2017 to examine sub-categorisation of OBCs. By when can we expect the report? It got its 12th extension in January 2022.

The report findings should be out in a month or two.They were also confused about the status of one community in various states. I too have discussed it with her.

How will BJP perform in the 2023 Telangana polls?

We did very well in the Lok Sabha polls and by-elections. We have been working to build the party in the state.

Now we are an alternative to Congress. In 2023, BJP will form the government and TRS will be routed.

And will you be CM?

No, it is for the party to decide. We just want a doubleengine sarkar just like in UP, Uttarakhand, and Goa so that Centre’s programmes can percolate.

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