The birthday of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is round the corner. On January 15 Mayawati will celebrate her 67th birthday as jankalyankari diwas, or people's welfare day. The best gift that Mayawati can give to herself this birthday is to lead a people's movement for continuing reservation for Dalits and Other Backward communities (OBC).

As a woman leader of Dalits, Mayawati is a role model for all members of backward communities and what they can achieve if given an opportunity. Although she seems to be a reluctant people's leader today, Mayawati continues to be admired by a large section of the population in Uttar Pradesh (UP), where 'upper caste' people have enjoyed a good life for centuries.

Her rise from a humble hamlet to the office of UP's Chief Minister was called a miracle of democracy by former Prime Minister Narsimha Rao. Mayawati rose to the dizzying heights of power in 1995 as CM of the country's largest populated and poorest province.

Today is a time when Mayawati is expected to stand on the street in favour of the poor. The Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court recently reversed the December 5 order of the UP government proposing reservations for other backward classes (OBC) and to go ahead with the civic polls.

"The court order exposes the anti- OBC and anti-reservation mentality of the BJP government," Mayawati tweeted. She lashed out against the ruling party's anti-reservation mindset, adding that she does not accept change in the present quota system for Dalits and members of Other Backward Communities.

Mayawati is meeting with party leaders today at the BSP's fortlike offices in Lucknow's posh Mall Avenue neighbourhood. The meeting will discuss the events to be held across the state on Mayawati's birthday.

She will also release the 18th edition of A Travelogue of my Struggle Ridden Life, which she has authored. It also documents the history of the BSP movement. A mission calendar of the party is planned with an everyday programme to attend to the needs of the poor throughout the new year.

The agenda of the meeting includes preparations for the urban local bodies election to be held in early 2023 and the 2024 Lok Sabha election. In the past Mayawati's birthday celebrations have been hosted with great pomp and show. Party members have been donating funds as economic help to the BSP. A BSP leader said that the funds raised by the party are used to help the poor and Dalits in need.

It is high time to put the needs of the majority of the people before the desire of party leaders to show off their power and wealth. The birthday celebrations of Mayawati can only be made special by doing good for all those who are still homeless and without employment in true spirit of a jankalyankari diwas.

Reservation or Not?

The intention of the ruling party is talk of the town in Lucknow today, over the continuation of political reservation to the poor and backward castes in UP. Is the state government using the court order to hold the municipality polls immediately as the term of several municipalities ends by January 31?

The OBC vote share is considerable and with elections in mind, the ruling party said that the government is ready to set up a commission to finalise OBC reservation. The party assured that polls to the municipality will be held only after the quota is instituted, even as Opposition parties blamed the ruling party for failing to protect political reservations for backward groups.

The term of several municipalities ends by January 31, annulling the government's December 5 notification to provide reservation in urban body polls for OBCs, apart from those for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.

The court order came in response to a batch of petitions that argued that the government had announced the quota without following guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court.

"My government will opt for elections only after a commission is set up and reservation benefits to OBCs in local body polls are ensured," Chief Minister Adityanath said.

The municipality polls were last held in 2017 and are scheduled for December this year. The elections are the last test of the state's urban pulse before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Why the state government did not set up the necessary commission earlier so that elections could be held this month is the question.

The system of reservation was introduced to uplift the historically disadvantaged sections of Indian society. Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC) and economically backward classes are provided opportunities by providing them reservations in legislatures, government jobs, promotions and educational scholarships.

The reservation of the percentage in higher education institutions stands at 49 percent. A similar ratio is followed in Parliament. The percentage of reservation varies in each state. Maharashtra is estimated to have the highest percentage of reservation.

Halla Bol

This is a golden opportunity for the opposition parties in the state to make political gains from the situation. In UP backward groups were crucial to the ruling party's phenomenal electoral performance earlier.

Now the Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav has declared a halla-bol, and taken to the street to protest the anti-reservation attitude of the ruling party. Yadav has accused the ruling party of shedding 'crocodile tears' for the poor and backward castes. Yadav warns that if given the opportunity the ruling party will also snatch away their rights from Dalits.

"That is why Dalits and OBCs must come together to defeat the ruling party's plan," said Yadav adding that reservation will be saved only if the ruling party is removed from power.

Allies of the ruling party, like Apna Dal, are also suspicious of the intention of the ruling party. "We will study the court order in detail before taking a final decision but if required, we will even approach the Supreme Court on the issue," the party tweeted.

Sanjay Nishad, a cabinet minister and head of the Nishad Party, said that he has spoken to the Chief Minister. The court has made it clear that there are discrepancies on the reservation issue and these need to be sorted out so that backwards, like my riverine community, are able to enjoy reservation benefits," Nishad said.