The Akhil Bhartiya Yadhuvanshi Mahasabha Trust protests against reservation in promotions for OBCs in government jobs, in New Delhi last week. PTI
n 1964, US President Lyndon Johnson got passed a Civil Rights Act, which stopped several forms of discrimination against African-Americans. However, it was clear to him that his victory would almost certainly mean the loss by his party of numerous House and Senate seats in the south, and so it has proved. The "Boll Weevil Democrats" of that period morphed into full-fledged members of the Republican Party by the time Ronald Reagan took over in the 1980s. Fortunately, they were unable to roll back the Act or to stop the steady improvement in the civil rights of formerly disadvantaged groups in the United States. However, conservative white voters in the south never forgave the Democratic Party for this "betrayal", and as a consequence, the Republicans boosted their numbers significantly in national elections. It took first Jimmy Carter and later Bill Clinton — both southerners themselves — to return the White House to the Democrats, although the US Supreme Court ensured the victory of George Bush in 2000 by blocking a recount in Florida. In choosing Bush over Gore on a technicality, the US Supreme Court had chosen a war that was rooted less in necessity than pique. It had also set the stage for the near-collapse of the economy, and all because its Republican majority prevailed over the Court's Democratic minority in giving the judgement that enabled Bush to enter the White House in 2001.
The 2008 financial crash owed its origins to two factors, the freeing of the financial sector by Bill Clinton from the Glass-Steagal Act and the extravagant ways in which Bush conducted his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A soldier is aware that in times of war, the level of comfort enjoyed by him may fall drastically, because everything will need to get subordinated to the aim of winning the war. George Bush and Dick Cheney sought to insulate the US soldier from the reality of war for as much as they could, by ensuring that food and other necessities and comforts got flown in from the US. Bush and Cheney made a fetish out of buying American. The fact that US-made items were far more expensive than substitutes available closer to the battlefield got added on to the logistical costs of transport to shoot up the daily cost of maintaining a soldier in combat to levels that reached a staggering $1 mn per soldier per year, a level unaffordable even for Washington. Maintaining a military weaned on the comforts of home have drained the budgets of many members of NATO.
What seems certain is that non-Dalit government servants will turn against the Congress party for introducing a change that would severely affect their own chances for promotion.
After the Civil Rights Bill was passed, over the past 50 years, Republicans have held the presidency many years more than Democrats have, largely because of the defection of conservative white voters to the other side. Over the past week, the Congress party has "done a Lyndon" by its effort to ensure that promotions would fall under the quota rule for SCs and STs. The political benefit will get cornered by parties such as the BSP, which represent the Dalits in a way that the Congress party never can. Indeed, only the AICC would believe that placing a Dalit as Home Minister would drive voters to its door. Such tokenism does not work anymore, if it ever did. Instead, what seems certain is that non-Dalit government servants will turn against the Congress party for introducing a change that would severely affect their own chances for promotion. Rather than seek to amend the Constitution, all that the Congress needed to do was to pass an administrative order extending the tenure of SC/STs in government service from 60 to 62 years. Such an increase would automatically ensure a steady stream of SC/ST promotions within the services, a stream that could be broadened by making a special effort to ensure that more younger Dalits sit for the competitive examinations. It is because many enter service late (because of the five-year age limit relaxation in their case) that there are so few Dalits at the top. Entering earlier and leaving later would result in a goodly proportion of Dalit officers at the top. However, it seems that common sense finds no takers at 24 Akbar Road.