question was not of social justice. It was of power. The other
backward castes were able to challenge the examination system
of recruitment to government jobs because some of them, such as the
Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, had done remarkably well
economically and politically and sought to capture the state
apparatus through reservations. They provided the numbers and muscle
for V.P.Singh's ascent to the office of Prime Minister in 1989.
The Mandal decision was deeply
divisive of Hindus in north India and potentially disruptive of the
quality of the administration. No administration can cope with as
high a level of reservations as 50 per cent: 27 per cent jobs in the
government are already reserved for scheduled castes and tribes and
certain categories and the Mandal Commission report provides for
22.5 per cent more reservations.
V.P.Singh could not have been unaware
of this reality. Perhaps he did not care. Perhaps he made the move
precisely because he knew it would greatly embarrass the BJP in view
of its commitment to unite Hindus. Whatever his calculations and
intentions, the BJP had to fight back and it could not do so on the
ground of his choice. It had to look for another.