With the Gujjar community threatening to revive the agitation for quota, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Monday invited their leader Kirori Singh Bainsla for talks, saying his government had, in principle, agreed to five per cent reservation for the community and other castes.
"We have, in principle, agreed to five per cent reservation to Gujjars and other castes, but the proposal can only be implemented under legal and constitutional provisions, and hence again we have invited Bainsla to come here for talks," Gehlot said.
His offer came a day after the Gujjar leader gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the government to clarify its stand on the reservation bill passed under the previous Bharatiya Janata Party government. The Rajasthan Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Castes, Special Backward classes, and Economically Backward Classes Bill-2008 is awaiting the governor's assent.
Gehlot said that his government was in favour of resolving the Gujjar reservation issue 'peacefully' and accused the BJP of fomenting trouble. However, leader of Opposition Vasundhara Raje, along with other BJP legislators, declared a sit-in in the Assembly till 11 am on Tuesday, demanding Governor S K Singh's signature on the reservation bill pending since July last year.
A violent agitation by Gujjars in May-June in 2007 to press for Scheduled Tribes status for the community had claimed 47 lives, after which the then BJP government, lead by Raje, introduced the legislation.
Indicating that the provision of 14 per cent reservation to ECB (Economic Backward Class) was the sticking point, Gehlot said, "It shall be possible only after necessary amendments in the Constitution, which is the subject of Parliament".
The Gehlot government has maintained that including reservations for ECB in the bill will take the total quota to 68 per cent, which will exceed the constitutional limit of 50 per cent. The chief minister also offered to talk to Gujjar lawyers on the constitutional and legal aspects of the issue. At a mahapanchayat near Hindon city in Karuali district on Sunday, about 200 km from Jaipur, Bainsla, spearheading the agitation for the past three years, asked Gujjars to stay back for a 24 hour sit-in to build pressure on the government.
He said the Congress government would have to provide five per cent reservation as envisaged in the bill, which was passed by the previous BJP government. Nearly 4,000 Gujjar people attended the meeting held amid tight security.
Meanwhile, Governor S K Singh today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi and said he did "not anticipate any trouble in the state". He, however, refused to divulge what transpired in the meeting with the prime minister at the latter's Parliament House office.