Congress not against quota for poor among forward castes : Spokesman

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New Delhi, Apr 11 (UNI) A day after the Supreme Court upheld the 27 per cent quota for the Other Backward Classes in institutions of higher learning, the Congress Party today said it is open to the suggestion to provide for a quota for economically backward among the forward communities if a consensus on the issue got formed.

''If an opinion in favour of a quota for economically backward among the forward communities gets formed, we are ready to look into it,'' AICC Spokesman Manish Tewari told mediapersons, while reacting to the demand of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati to provide for a quota to poor among the upper castes and religious minorities.

Saying that it was the Congress Party which had taken the initiative in this direction, he pointed out that the Congress had suggested a 10 per cent reservation for economically poor among other communities in connection with the Indira Sawhney case. But the Supreme Court had said such a reservation did not qualify within the ambit of article 15 (4) and 16 (4) of the Constitution.

Referring to yesterday's apex court verdict on OBC quota in centrally-run institutions like the IIMs and IITs, Mr Tewari said it was a vindication of the commitment of the Congress Party and the UPA to empowerment and social justice.

''It is the continuation of the Congress' journey which started in 1932 with the Gandhi-Ambedkar pact," he said, while listing the various legislative and legal measures that the Congress Party had initiated during the past one century for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes and Backward classes.

On the 93rd Constitutional amendment, which the apex court upheld yesterday, Mr Tewari said, "it represents essentially a long commitment of the Congress Party for social inclusiveness and empowering the people who are on the fringes of our society. We have assiduously built up legal architecture to give rights to socially backward people." Asked if the UPA government would challenge the Supreme Court direction to exclude 'creamy layer' (economically forward among the backward communities) from the purview of OBC reservation, he said the Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh had already made clear that the issue would be discussed by the Union Cabinet which would consider all the facts of the issue before taking an appropriate decision.

Mr Tewari, a lawyer himself, said the concept of 'creamy layer' had evolved from the Indira Sawhney case. The five-judge Constitution bench, which gave its verdict yesterday, was bound by the nine-judge bench on the case. "Therefore, till Indira Sawhney case does not get renewed, the creamy layer is possibly an issue." UNI SH GL HT1942

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