KCR gets quota Bill through, but faces a battle ahead

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 15, 2018

K Chandrasekhar Rao, Telangana Chief Minister and TRS President

Telangana Bill raises reservation for Muslims by 8 percentage points to 12%, for STs by 6 to 10%

In a bold and potentially controversial political move, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao got the State Legislature to pass a Bill seeking a hike in reservations for Muslims and Scheduled Tribes (STs).

The Telangana Reservation Bill 2017 seeks to increase the quota for backward Muslims under BC-E category from the existing 4 per cent to 12 per cent. Similarly, quota for STs will rise to 10 per cent from the existing four per cent. The reservations are applicable in admissions to educational institutions and State services.

Reservations for Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes currently stands at 25 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, which may increase after panels appointed to evaluate their backwardness submit reports.

Following the passage of the Bill, total reservation would stand at 62 per cent, far exceeding the Supreme Court-mandated 50 per cent. KCR intends to follow the successful model of Tamil Nadu, which has managed to bypass the apex court regulations by having its 69 per cent reservation policy enshrined in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, placing it beyond judicial review.

“We will urge the Centre to include the Bill in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution as the reservation would exceed 50 per cent in Telangana,” the Chief Minister had said.

The rationale

The Chief Minister emphasised that the increase in quota was not based on religion, but on social backwardness and quantifiable data of the composition of the population. Post bifurcation of united Andhra Pradesh, Muslims comprise 12.68 per cent of the population of Telangana (44.64 lakh). Similarly, the population of STs had grown to 9.08 percent (7.11 per cent). Overall, Telangana’s population is dominated by economically and socially backward communities.

In short, the decision is aimed to win over larger sections of the people, with the 2019 State and Lok Sabha polls in mind.

“The quota hike was a promise before the elections of 2014. We won the mandate of the people who endorsed it and hence the logical step of fulfilling it through the Bill,” KCR contended.

The hurdles

However, the road to the implementation of the policy is paved with several hurdles. Political analysts feel the legislation could soon land itself in higher courts. The decision by the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh to hike the quota for Muslims to 12 per cent from 4 per cent was stymied by the AP High Court several years ago.

And while Tamil Nadu had the backing of the party at the Centre when it implemented its policy in the early 1990s, how likely is it that the BJP-led Narendra Modi government will oblige KCR by amending Schedule 9 of the Constitution?

In fact, the BJP, which was the only party to oppose the move in the Legislature, is preparing the ground to exploit the situation. The Telugu Desam Party ( 3 MLAs) and Cong(I) with 12 legislators will face the heat of the decision as it moves forward.

KCR exhibited belligerence when he said: “I will not beg the Centre, but am going to fight to get the Bill implemented. If necessary, we [the TRS] will take up protests in the Lok Sabha and seek all-party support. If denied, we will approach the Supreme Court and take all measures to get it [the legislation] passed.”

KCR has succeeded in winning round one by getting the Telangana Legislature to pass the quota Bill and win some political points. The next round will be his ability to convince the Modi government, failing which, it will be a protracted legal case, which will call into play his government’s intent and persuasive powers.

Published on April 17, 2017

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