PANEL ON QUOTA FOR POOR GETS ONE-YEAR EXTENSION

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WITH the UPA’s quota decision causing upper-caste unease about the Congress, the goverment on Thursday attempted to contain the dissatisfaction by granting a year’s extension to the commission evolving the criteria for identification of economically backward classes that are not covered in the existing reservation policy.

The move comes in the backdrop of an assessment in the Congress that in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, the quota issue has been working to the advantage of BJP. This assessment is not off the mark as the BJP fared well in the recent civic election even in the absence of a credible leadership.

Although the BJP has been publicly backing the OBC quota move, it has been making some deft manoeuvres to cash in on the unhappiness in the upper castes. The latter, which aided the BJP’s electoral project in the past, have been voting for different political formations after its loss of pre-eminence in the state’s politics.

Past elections have also seen the BSP gaining substantial support of the upper castes. As a matter of fact, almost all upper caste candidates fielded by the BSP had won the last assembly election.

All this spells trouble for the Congress, which is desperately trying to revive the organisation in Uttar Pradesh. With the party still unable to forge a core votebank for itself, the threat of an upper caste consolidation against the Congress can spell more trouble.

The party has been seeking an extension of the quota Commission for soothing the frayed nerves of the upper castes. The Cabinet, which took up the issue at its meeting on Thursday, gave its approval to the extension from February this year with the existing terms and conditions.

I&B minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi told reporters that the extension would enable the Commission to complete its work. He said the welfare measures recommended by the Commission would benefit economically backward sections by giving them adequate representation in the services.

The Cabinet also gave its approval for extending the term of the National Commission to study the developmental aspects of Denotified Tribes, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes for one year from February 6 this year. This would enable the Commission to complete its work and submit the report to the government, the minister added.

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