Indian politics has entered the post-Mandal era with the Bihar Assembly on Thursday clearing the legislation to increase reservations in government jobs and educational institutions from the existing 50 per cent to 65 per cent, taking the overall cap to 75 per cent, including the 10 per cent mandated for the economically weaker sections by the Centre.
“Now reservation will be 75 per cent, including 10 per cent for economically weaker sections that the Centre introduced a few years ago and we, too, have implemented in the state,” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told the House on the occasion.
Three separate Bills envisaging 75 per cent reservation were tabled and passed without debate. The opposition BJP supported the three bills. For Nitish, the Bills go beyond the caste arithmetic; he hopes to make the distribution of public benefits more targeted and specific. Backward classes was too broad and vague a category until now. Bihar had tried to break the walls of internal hierarchy within backward classes by creating a category of extremely backward classes, but the sharing of public benefits among the backward classes still eluded precise targeting.
The reason was there were hundreds of castes and sub-castes. And there were internal hierarchies among castes. These hierarchies had social as well as economic foundations. As per the Bills, the quota for STs will be doubled, from 1 to 2 per cent, while for SCs it will be raised from 16 per cent to 20 per cent.
For EBCs, the quota will be 25 per cent, up from 18 per cent, while for OBCs it will rise from 12 per cent to 15 per cent. The decision comes two days after the proposal was cleared by the Bihar cabinet in a special meeting and follows a caste survey conducted by the state government. As for its electoral impact, the new caste matrix is going to help the I.ND.I.A. grouping in a big way in Bihar in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP was on a weak wicket even otherwise with the possible massive aggregation of votes of JD(U), RJD, Congress and Left parties in Bihar in 2024. The passage of the Bills is going to set off a post-Mandal storm in the state which might sweep the BJP off its feet.