Will the decision to revoke preferential promotions in state services prove to be Akhilesh’s masterstroke, asks Virendra Nath Bhatt
UTTAR PRADESH Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is charting a new path to broaden his agenda of inclusive politics. On 8 May, the Cabinet decided to revoke Mayawati’s preferential promotion policy for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/STs) in state services. The younger Yadav made his intentions clear when he announced that massive tracts of land dedicated as parks to Dalit icons would be put to public use.
Aimed at making a dent in the Sarvajan-Bahujan social coalition that brought the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to power in 2007, this move has not only won Akhilesh the hearts of the upper castes, but also the support of the minority employees, who were hit by Mayawati’s promotion policy that had e!ectively blocked promotions for officers of all other social groups.
The controversy over preferential promotion for the SC/STs in Uttar Pradesh is over a decade old. In 2002, the BSP-BJP combine headed by Mayawati had amended the “UP Government Employee’s Seniority Rules’’ and had brought in a policy of giving preferential promotion to SC/ST employees in state services. The Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government revoked the order two years later in 2005.
Mayawati reintroduced the policy in 2007 after coming to power. A year later, state government employees challenged the policy in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court. The court accepted their petition and quashed the policy in January 2011, terming it “unconstitutional” and “ultra vires”. The then BSP-led government challenged the high court order in the Supreme Court. In its judgment on 27 April 2012, the apex court upheld the Allahabad High Court order.
Within a week of the judgment, the UP Cabinet met on 5 May and approved the draft ordinance “UP Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribe Employees (seniority rules) 2012”. On 8 May, the government issued the follow-up orders, paving the way for the promotion of state employees belonging to the OBCs, minorities and upper castes, who were denied promotion during the BSP regime.
Dalit groups in the state are now gearing up for a battle to protect a “legitimate right given to them by the Constitution”. These groups also blame Mayawati for the current mess. “The high court judgment of January 2011 said the state could continue with the policy of reservation in promotions after fulfilling the norms laid down by the SC in the Nagaraj case. Mayawati never cared for the court’s directions and instead filed an appeal in the SC,” says Udit Raj, leader of the Dalit political group, the Indian Justice Party.
“Mayawati should have implemented the policy only after complying with the SC order in the Nagaraj case, which imposed three conditions — whether there was inadequate representation of SC/ST; ascertain actual backwardness of the SC/ST employees; and the effect on efficiency of the OBCs and general category employees in case a junior employee is promoted,” says SR Darapuri, an office-bearer of the UP Ambedkar Maha Sabha and a retired IPS officer. “Nothing was done.”
Now a Rajya Sabha member, Mayawati has raised this issue in the Upper House, and has demanded an amendment to the Constitution to neutralise the SC judgment. She has asked that the amended law be covered under Schedule 9 of the Constitution, to protect it from judicial scrutiny in future or make it non justiciable.
After taking over as Chief Minister, Akhilesh had claimed that several hundred acres of land in Lucknow, where parks and memorials to Dalit icons have been built, would be put to better use by constructing public utilities and government facilities .
A day earlier, on 14 March, Mayawati had threatened a nation-wide stir if the Samajwadi Party did not keep off the parks and statues of Dalit leaders.