NEW DELHI: In this season of appeasement, another sectional interest has reared its head — the Other Backward Classes — and demanded a separate ministry — ”ministry for OBC affairs”.
Encouraged by the creation of the minority affairs ministry in the last innings of the UPA government, a section of Congress now believes that there is scope for an exclusive ministry for OBCs. This demand was articulated by a group of Congress MPs, including ministers, at a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday.
Rajya Sabha members B K Hariprasad, V Hanumantha Rao, R C Khuntia and ministers of state V Narayanswamy and Bharatsinh Solanki were among those who met the prime minister.
With the departure of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP and Lalu Prasad’s RJD from the UPA, OBC vote is one that the party would like to garner for itself. This section is firmly with its political rivals in several parts of north India. Even in southern states like Karnataka, OBC vote has not been particularly faithful to Congress.
A section of the party believes that reaching out to OBCs through specific administrative measures would help Congress build a base in this politically powerful group. OBC leaders in Congress hope that given the initial signs of the party’s resurgence in the cow belt, their government will accommodate these demands.
Besides the demand for a separate ministry, the group also asked that the OBC forum in Parliament be given a formal status, rather than the informal grouping that it now is. They would also like the constitution of a separate standing committee to look into OBC affairs and would like the commission for OBCs to be given a constitutional status.
Being an important political grouping, OBC leaders are of the view that their viewpoint should be articulated in the judicial commission, and there should be due OBC representation in the Union Public Service Commission and the judiciary.
While it is Congress that has now articulated this demand to the government, there has been a rumbling among the OBC MPs cutting across party lines demanding a separate ministry to take care of their interests. Some of this was articulated in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, when the house was discussing the demand for grants for the ministry of social justice and empowerment.