[IN FOCUS: Crossing political divides for ticket
Community’s leaders, in support of their demand for quota, demand ticket from both the BJP and the Congress
The demand of the Gujjar community in Rajasthan for a 5% quota within the reservation for the Other Backward Classes has taken a political turn ahead of the Assembly election.
On the pretext of efforts for “political empowerment”, several Gujjar leaders are demanding ticket from both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.
Over their 11-year agitation for reservation, Gujjars have fought pitched battles with the police, and negotiated with governments headed by the BJP and the Congress, besides taking up the cause in the courts. Thirty-five persons died in the stir during Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s previous term.
Gujjars feel that dominant castes, such as Jats and Yadavs, corner the benefit of OBC reservation. Their demand has gradually shifted from inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe category to the creation of a Special Backward Class (SBC) category and later, the sub-categorisation of OBCs.
Gujjar supremo Kirori Singh Bainsla, who led the quota agitation, contested the 2009 Lok Sabha election on BJP ticket from the TonkSawai Madhopur seat, but lost to Namo Narain Meena of the Congress.
This time, the retired Lieutenant-Colonel of the Army has reportedly sought ticket from both the BJP and the Congress for his son and loyalists and is waiting for their response.
Gujjar leader Himmat Singh, who broke away from Col. Bainsla’s camp recently, is an aspirant for Congress ticket from Dausa.
Kalyan Singh Kothari, political analyst and Lok Samvad Sansthan secretary, said here that the Gujjar leaders started nursing political ambitions on getting exposure to public life, but added that electoral battles would not necessarily bring the desired benefits.
Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti general secretary Shailendra Singh Dhabhai told that the community had realised that its demands were not being accepted because of its “political weakness”.
“If we send more community members to the Assembly, we will be able to convince the powers-that-be of the need for reservation. The desire for political representation in proportion to our population is perfectly justified,” Mr. Dhabhai said. He said the Gujjars, who influenced the outcome in nearly 65 seats, would extend support to the parties on the basis of their response to the quota demand.
Ms. Raje’s much-publicised “Gaurav Yatra” in August lost steam after the Gujjars threatened to disrupt it in the Bharatpur division. The Bharatpur region was
dropped from the Yatra’s itinerary in view of the protests in several Assembly segments for quota and withdrawal of police cases against community members detained during the previous agitations.
Later, Gujjar activists staged a protest in Ajmer before a public rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October, demanding a meeting with him. When the protesters blocked the main road outside the Collectorate and burnt tyres, the police resorted to a charge to disperse them.
lathi 50% ceiling
Instead of taking a favourable decision on the demand for a 5% quota within the OBCs, the BJP government has given 1% reservation to Gujjars, within the 50% ceiling mandated by the Supreme Court.
Four other nomadic communities — Banjara, GadiaLohar, Raika and Gadariya — were included with the Gujjars in the “most backward” category and given the quota last December.
Long protest: Gujjars in Rajasthan taking out a rally demanding reservation.