Paswan seeks 15 per cent reservation for poor among upper castes

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Patna: Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Sunday raised the demand for 15 per cent reservation for the economically backward section among the upper castes.

“A significant section of people among the upper castes have remained backward. Reservation in educational and employment opportunities will help join the mainstream society. My party is in favour of 15 per cent reservation for the needy among the upper castes,” said Paswan to reporters in Patna.

This is the second time in about a month that Paswan, a prominent Dalit leader who is the Union minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, has raised the demand for quota for the upper castes. He had made the demand last month just days after the Bharat Bandh first called by Dalit organisations over the reservation issue and another one called a week later by anti-reservation groups.

While Paswan’s demand is seen as his wish to widen the support base of his party and endear it to Bihar’s upper castes, whose votes remain largely divided between Congress and BJP, analysts said the Dalit leader may be aiming at putting pressure on ally BJP well before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Significantly, a similar demand was made by Bihar’s ruling JD(U) leader and industries minister Jai Kumar Singh recently. “While reservation for Dalits and other disadvantaged sections is alright, we demand quota for the poor among the upper castes because a large section of them has been lagging behind for decades,” Singh had said, demanding the formation of a commission by the Centre to assess the economic backwardness of upper-caste people.

Speaking on the Assembly polls in Karnataka, Paswan exuded hope that NDA would form the government there. “There is no vacancy for the PM’s post in 2019. The nation is on a path of rapid progress under Narendra Modi’s leadership, and he will become PM in 2019, too,” he said.

On Bihar’s demand for special category state status, Paswan said while his party is in favour of this status, it can be accorded only if the state fulfils all the criteria fixed for it.

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