After a humiliating defeat in the recent assembly elections, the Congress party’s move to recommend Other Backward Classes (OBC) status to the 8.25 crore-member strong Jat community spread across nine states in north India reflects that minority votes aren’t good enough for the Congress to stop the Modi juggernaut in the general elections.
The Union Cabinet had on Thursday asked the National Commission for Backward Classes to take a final call on granting Jats OBC status at the central level. The Cabinet decided that NCBC should reconsider its 2011 decision in which it had rejected the demand for Jat reservation in central government jobs.
The Congress-led UPA has taken this step based on he calculation that Jat voters hold the key to deciding the winner in over 30 out of the 226 Lok Sabha seats in these nine states. In Uttar Pradesh alone, more than 10 Lok Sabha constituencies have Jats voters in majority. Although Jats comprise just around 1.75 crore of UP’s total population, more than 17% population in Western UP belongs to Jat community. The Congress is also looking to preempt the BJP’s attempt to woo Jat voters after the Muzaffarnagar riots which might leave Ajit Singh, the de-facto Jat leader in Western UP, gasping for breath.
Similarly, Haryana and Rajasthan too hold the key for the Congress Jat voters are a
majority in eight out of the 10 seats in Haryana. Although there has never been a caste census in India since 1931, if estimates are to be believed more than 27 percent people out of Haryana’s population belong to the Jat community who are not only numerically and economically sound but also have a huge clout over other communities, especially the lower castes, in the state.
Haryana is also headed for the assembly elections in October next year and the Congress would want to retain power in the state at any cost as it’s the only Congress-ruled state that gives stiff competition to the BJP’s Gujarat model.
In Rajasthan, Jats comprise more 14 % of the total population. The recent assembly elections have shown victory for BJP leaders in Jat dominated areas of the state as the community treated BJP chief ministerial candidate Vasundhra Raje as Jat ‘bahu’. North-West Rajasthan where a majority of the Jat population is based has around 8 Lok Sabha seats making the community indispensable for the Congress.
Delhi, where the Congress has suffered the maximum humiliation despite its tall claims of development by Sheila Dikshit government, also has more than 10 % Jat voters out of a population of approx. 1.3 crore voters. Delhi has 364 villages of which around 225 are Jat dominated and the fate of two Lok Sabha seats is decided by these villages. Delhi also has several unauthorised colonies with a sizeable population of Jats who migrated here from the neighbouring states.
Other states in the list sent by the UPA government to the NCBC are Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh where the population of Jats isn’t very thick.
In Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Jats are already listed under the OBC category of the respective state governments. UP included Jats in the OBC category in 2000, whereas Delhi and Rajasthan did so in 1999. Six states are already under the survey of Indian Council of Social Science and Research (ICSSR) and report is likely to get submitted to NBCC to the coming months.
Yashpal Malik, president of the All India Jat Aarakshan Samiti, has welcomed this Congress step.
“We have been demanding it for quite a while now and if this step culminates into reality, the youngsters of the community will be immensely benefited. It would help in the socio-economic elevation of the community,” said Malik.