Twist to quota war; League changes stand

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on January 3, 2010

The war between the CPI(M)-led ruling LDF and the Congress-headed Opposition Congress to win the support of the Nair Service Society, the outfit of the Hindu upper caste Nairs who constituted about 14 percent of Kerala’s total population, reached an even stage with both fronts offering backing to the NSS demand for job and educational reservations for the economically backward sections of the community.

In a virtual somersault on Sunday, PK Kunhalikkutty, State general secretary of the Muslim League, second largest constituent of the UDF, dropped his objection to the NSS demand and sympathized with the worries of the Nairs. On Saturday evening, Kunhalikkutty had vehemently opposed the idea of reservations for forward communities, saying historically and Constitutionally, reservations were a right reserved for the backward communities people.

Sources in the UDF secretly admitted that the Muslim League’s somersault was the result of the pressure several senior Congress leaders put on that party. The Congress and other constituents of the UDF were worried that the Muslim League’s objections to the NSS demand for job and educational quota would force the Nairs to distance themselves away from the front, just when the CPI(M) was on a desperate bid to found a new friendship with the NSS.

The CPI(M) was the first political party to respond to the NSS demand for quota, raised on Friday. Kerala Local Administration Minister and senior CPI(M) central committee member Paloli Muhammad Kutty made his party’s mind clear by offering whole-hearted support to the call. The Congress was late in responding, and when its spokesman MM Hassan spoke on the matter, the position seemed equivocal but maintained that the party was not averse to the NSS demand.

In this context, Kunhalikkutty’s Saturday remarks against the Nairs’ demand invited serious criticisms from the NSS leadership, which pointed out this as yet another example of the ambiguity and indifference of the UDF stand with respect to the concerns of the Nairs. Apprehensive of losing the electoral support of the NSS, which had been seen as pro-UDF despite its official equidistance policy towards the two fronts, the Congress leaders put pressure on Kunhalikkutty to recant.

In a total reversal of what he had said on Saturday, Kunhalikkutty said in Malappuram on Sunday that the NSS demand was just. He went a step further to appease the NSS by saying the UDF would seriously consider the demand if it came to power after the Assembly elections, due now in April, 2011. He said the League was concerned over the weaker economic position of the backward sections in the forward community.

“Towards such a demand, the approach of the Muslim League would be constructive. We would never take a negative stand on such a matter,” Kunhalikkutty said. Asked for an explanation for his Saturday statement in the new context, he said, “We had just pointed out the legal aspect.”

The NSS has been toying with the idea of raising a formal demand for job and educational reservations for the economically backward sections in the community for the past several years, but it is only now the outfit has raised it seriously. The delegates’ meet of the conference held as part of the celebration of the 133rd birthday of NSS founder Mannthu Padmanabhan (Mannam) at Changanassery, Kottayam, on the New Year Day asked the Central and State governments to extend the quota provision to the poor among the community.

The NSS delegates’ meet opined that the Nair community had been facing neglect in the fields of employment and education for the past sixty years on the ground that it was an upper caste. This had led to huge backwardness of several Nairs educationally and economically, it said. It also said that the successive governments had been extending concessions only to one section of Hindus by dividing them into backward and forward categories. The community outfit said that job and educational quota should be extended to Nairs also considering their present backwardness.

Kerala has already saturated its 50-percent permitted job quota by dividing it into ten sections, mostly community-wise, by which the Muslims get a ten-per cent reservation in last grade posts in government jobs and 12 percent in other posts. Backward Hindu community Ezhava tops the job quota list of the Kerala Public Service Commission with 11 percent jobs earmarked for it in last grade posts and 14 percent in other posts. Ezhavas constitute 23 percent of the State’s population while Muslims account for 24 percent of it.

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