Jat quota may further polarise Haryana voters

The initial euphoria over Jat reservation has settled down. It is now time to look for the political implications of the decision that seemed to be set to further polarise the Jat and non-Jat votes of the agrarian state, where caste has always played a major role in the voting pattern.

Recommendation of reservation for Jats and economically backward people of Haryana has not only led to criticism of the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government for handing over a 'lollypop' to an agitating community, but also has the inherent danger of isolating the party to a particular community. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has called the cabinet decision merely an illusion, and the BJP is wary over its actual implementation.

The Haryana electorate has been very sensitive to caste, and Jats had been considered the stronghold of former deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal's clan. The INLD has always sworn to power riding on its Jat vote bank. The party lost its stronghold after the Congress in the 2005 Assembly polls made huge inroads in its Jat vote bank under Hooda's leadership.

An advantage that Hooda had was that he belonged to the community and the Congress wanted to appease the community that had been drifted away from it, since former chief minister Bansi Lal left the party to form his own Haryana Vikas Party in 1999.

It will be seen how the reservation gets materialised for the party as with 20 per cent more reserved seats, the figure of reservation will go up to 67 per cent, which is 17 per cent higher than what is permitted under the Constitution. The state, so far, has 27 per cent quota for the OBC, 20 per cent for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, 10 per cent each for the Jats and economically weaker categories.

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