Chandigarh: All India Jat Maha Sabha president Amarinder Singh on Thursday lambasted the SAD-BJP led Punjab government for making "deliberate" delay in declaring Jats and Jat Sikhs as backward classes, saying the Maha Sabha would "expose" the state government in the Lok Sabha polls.
Dubbing as eyewash the state government`s announcement of declaring Jats as BC on the eve of the announcement of general elections, the former Punjab Chief Minister blamed the SAD-BJP government for denial of OBC reservation benefit to Jats and Jat Sikhs of Punjab.
"Just a day before elections were to be announced, the state government hurriedly declared Jats and Jat Sikhs as BC. However, as the code of conduct is in place, it cannot be notified. Now, Punjab`s poor Jats will suffer," Amarinder told reporters here.
He said that despite writing twice to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for declaring Jats and Jat Sikhs as BC in the state list in order to make them eligible for inclusion in central OBC list, the state government chose to ignore this issue.
"Had this decision (of providing reservation) taken earlier, today the Jats and Jat Sikhs of Punjab would be entitled to the benefits in central services and educational institutions like in nine other states", he regretted while alleging, "Badal did not do it purposely as he selfishly thought that I or the Congress party may get the credit and some benefit by this decision."
Amarinder said that as per constitutional requirement, state government first must have to declare Jats as BC in the state list then it could be considered by Centre for including in central list of OBC.
"Unless the state government converted into law (declaring Jats as BC), the Centre cannot do it," he said.
The Union Cabinet had granted Other Backward Class (OBC) status to Jats of nine states of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, which would pave the way for the community members to avail benefits of reservation in central government jobs and central education institutions as per existing norms.
Asked why he did not declare Jats and Jat Sikhs as BC when he was Punjab CM in 2002-07, Amarinder admitted that it should have been done at that time. "Unfortunately, I could not meet them (representatives of Jats). But it is right, it should have been done at that time," he said.
The Jat Maha Sabha president said he had set up units across the state in each assembly segment with at least two members who would explain to the people as to how Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal "sabotaged and subverted" the move to get the Jats and Jat Sikhs of Punjab the reservation benefit under OBC category.
Amarinder said members of Jat Maha Sabha would go to villages in Punjab and expose the state government for "delaying" the reservation issue which was beneficial for poor and economically backward Jats of state.
Asked whether it would make it a political issue in upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Amarinder said, "We will make this an issue (in elections)."
Justifying the demand for getting reservation benefits for Jats and Jat Sikhs of Punjab under OBC category, Amarinder claimed that not more than two per cent of students from Jat community go for higher education.
Besides, he said, there are tens of thousands of Jats and Jat Sikh families across Punjab who cannot have one square meal. "We are demanding reservation for those people and not for people like me or Badal", he said.
Asked about whether he welcomed Manpreet Badal who would contest from Bathinda after entering into an alliance with Congress, Amarinder refused to comment, saying the decision was taken by the Congress president.
"I have not asked for Manpreet Badal. I have not said no to Manpreet Badal. It is entirely the decision of (Sonia) Gandhi. I was not consulted...It is up to Gandhi to decide..," he added.