A month after the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) hosted a national meeting of the party’s Other Backward Classes (OBC) Morcha in Jodhpur with the Union Minister Amit Shah addressing it, now the ruling Congress government has also shifted its focus to woo the OBC and SC communities in the state by giving the nod to form three separate boards.
On Monday Rajasthan Chief minister Ashok Gehlot announced the approval to form three boards - Rajasthan State Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Board, Rajasthan State Rajak Welfare Board and Rajasthan Leather Craft Development Board - for the welfare of the communities such as Scheduled Castes (SC) and OBC.
As per the statement, the newly formed boards such as Rajasthan State Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Board shall work to prepare welfare-related schemes to elevate the status of the Mali community along with promoting the art and culture of the community. Interestingly Gehlot himself hails from the Mali (Gardener) community, which also comes under OBC. Western Rajasthan has a decent OBC population and they play a decisive factor in winning several seats.
Similarly, the two other boards Rajasthan State Rajak Welfare Board shall work with the upliftment of the washermen community, whereas the Rajasthan Leather Craft Development Board shall improve the living standard of the people related to the leather trade and ensure the participation of the members.
According to the party sources, the government's move to form separate boards is an attempt to woo voters. "The demand to constitute boards for different communities has been there for many years. Hence with assembly polls one year to go, Gehlot has formed these boards. This move aims to benefit the ruling party in the long run", a senior Congress leader told Outlook.
Last month Amit Shah who visited the Chief minister's home town Jodhpur also addressed an OBC morcha. According to party sources, Shah's valedictory session of a national meeting of the party’s OBC Morcha was kept looking at the next assembly polls. In the 2018 assembly polls, the BJP performed badly in some districts in western Rajasthan which has a sizeable OBC population.
Reacting to the newly formed boards in the state, the opposition BJP has stated it as an eye wash. "Without any proper terms, budget allocation these boards cannot benefit anyone", BJP President Satish Poonia said.