Icon of quota politics forgotten in moment of triumph

April 13th, 2008 - 6:13 pm ICT by admin  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) The man who scripted the roadmap for quota politics in India is a forgotten man today. Even those who thrive on quota-centric social justice have given a silent burial to B.P. Mandal, whose 26th death anniversary fell Sunday. “April 13 is the death anniversary of Mandalji. But there has been no word from even those who have thrived politically only because of the report, in which he recommended 27 percent quota for people of other backward classes (OBC),” says Suraj Yadav, a family member of Mandal.

“Mandal never compromised with his political integrity and ideology, a rarity among today’s politicians. Which is why they hardly have any time to remember his political contributions,” Yadav, who teaches history in Delhi University’s Shraddhanand College, told IANS.

The Supreme Court Thursday upheld the central government’s decision to give 27 percent quota for OBCs in academic institutions. The recommendations were authored by Mandal as the head of the Backward Classes Commission (BCC), and the report was submitted to the then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1980.

Another member of Mandal’s family, Radhey Shyam Roy, echoes similar sentiments.

“Mandalji has been denied the recognition he deserves. What he said almost 28 years back is being upheld as correct even by the Supreme Court, and the central government is now implementing quota for the socially and economically backward classes,” Roy told IANS over phone from Bihar.

Mandal was Roy’s maternal uncle. An alumnus of Kolkata’s Vidyasagar College, and Patna College of Patna University, Roy was instrumental in drafting the report of the commission headed by Mandal.

“Each of us associated with Mandalji was sceptical about any government ever showing the courage to implement the recommendations of his commission, but he was confident. He used to say that the Indian caste system is so complex and vindictive that no amount of affirmative action can change the condition of the poor. The quota is the only option,” said Roy.

“I still remember his words that if you set aside certain seats or numbers for the poor in an academic institution, many of them will come forward to take them. But if you think they will come on their own, then India’s social constraints become a major hindrance,” Roy added.

Then prime minister Morarji Desai made Mandal chairman of the BCC in 1978.

Mandal was a member of the Lok Sabha from Madhepura in Bihar. He was also the chief minister of the state for a short stint in 1968, a period of intense political instability.

His political career began with the Indian National Congress but he later joined the Janata Party after the emergency. Later, Mandal gravitated towards socialist ideals and eventually joined the Samyukta Socialist Party.

“When the Mandal commission report came in December 1980, the people castigated him as a casteist. But now there is general consensus on what he thought of so many years back,” said Ash Narain Roy, international affairs co-ordinator at the Institute for Social Sciences in Delhi.

“Now, whether ceremonial tributes are paid to him or not, the fact remains that his report has changed the socio-political course of Indian society,” Roy said.

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