In latest Rajasthan Congress conflict, leaders square off over ex-servicemen quota

The Congress government in Rajasthan came under fire on Friday, this time from several of its own over alleged anomalies in reservation for communities categorised as Other Backward Classes (OBC).

Former minister Harish Choudhary, who is at present the Congress leader in charge for Punjab, said he was shocked that a “favourable decision” on the matter was not taken in the recent meeting of the state Cabinet and a discussion was deferred.

Several members of OBC communities have asked the government to withdraw a notification that the state Department of Personnel issued in 2018 during the tenure of the previous BJP government. The notification directed that 12.5 per cent of posts in ministerial and subordinate services be reserved for ex-servicemen. The OBC communities have demanded that instead of the current arrangement, the quota for ex-servicemen be fixed on the lines of the reservation available to women.

On Friday, responding to the OBC leaders’ demand, the Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha entered the scene. The outfit’s national president and Congress leader Pandit Suresh Mishra — a close aide of former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot — issued a statement saying that the 2018 notification was “correct” and his organisation would not allow any changes to be made.

The latest round of political manoeuvring on the matter began on Thursday when Harish Choudhary, who is an incumbent MLA from Barmer district and the leader of the OBC Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, took to Twitter to express his disappointment with the state Cabinet not taking a decision on the reservation issue.

“Despite keeping the OBC reservation anomaly issue in the Cabinet meeting yesterday, the Opposition to it by a particular ideology is shocking. CM Ashok Gehlot ji, I am shocked, what do you want? I assure the OBC class that I will fight whatever battle has to be fought in this matter,” Choudhary tweeted, a day after the Cabinet meeting.

Choudhary, the former state revenue minister, belongs to the Jat community that, along with other OBC communities such as Yadavs and Kumawats, has led the calls for the withdrawal of the 2018 notification. He later met state Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra, also a Jat, before convening a meeting of the OBC Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti.

“The reservation for ex-servicemen shall be treated as horizontal reservation and it shall be adjusted in the respective category to which the ex-servicemen belong,” reads the notification issued on April 17, 2018.

On Friday, while speaking to reporters in Jaipur, Choudhary said that as a result of the government notice, lakhs of youngsters from the OBC communities were losing out as most of the posts were being filled by former servicemen.

“Before 2018, there was no clarity on reservation for ex-servicemen and departments used to recruit them at their own level. The 2018 circular decided that the merit of the ex-servicemen should be decided separately without putting them into categories such as SC, ST, and OBC. Wherever their name appears in merit, they are shifted to the concerned category. Our demand is that just as women’s reservation is given in proportion to categories, the reservation to ex-servicemen be fixed. Ex-servicemen should also be given this horizontal reservation for ex-servicemen of each category. Under the present system, SC, ST, EWS ex-servicemen are not being selected even if they are toppers in their category. There’s injustice for him too as presently only one merit list is being made,” said Choudhary.

The former minister said he had personally conveyed the matter multiple times to Gehlot and was shocked when he got to know that the Cabinet had deferred the issue. Choudhary said he would personally visit all the ministers to convince them and if there was no progress his organisation would take to the streets in protest.

“The Bharat Jodo Yatra is about to come to Rajasthan. At such a time, even if there is any dispute, we should resolve it and present a good environment in Rajasthan. When there is no dispute on an issue (anomalies in OBC reservation), I cannot understand what will one gain by deferring it?” said the Congress leader.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Cabinet Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas issued a statement clarifying he had never been against OBC reservation and alleged there was an effort to malign him. Khachariyawas, a Rajput, issued the clarification after he faced the ire of OBC youngsters on social media who alleged he had stalled the withdrawal of the notification at the Cabinet meeting.

The minister denied the allegation and said he had appealed to the CM to remove anomalies in OBC reservation.

Other Congress leaders from the OBC community, including Pilot loyalist and MLA Mukesh Bhakar and legislator Divya Maderna, urged Gehlot to decide on the matter soon.

Bhakar, who was one of the 18 MLAs who sided with Pilot during the 2020 political crisis, said if a decision on the issue were not taken soon the CM would be responsible for the anti-Congress and anti-government environment that would build up.

OBC communities staged a massive protest in September that was attended by several politicians but called off the agitation after the Chief Minister’s office reassured them that the matter would be resolved soon.

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