The Andhra Pradesh Legislature on Saturday adopted a bill seeking to provide five per cent reservation for the Kapu community, including its three sub-castes, in educational institutions and public appointments.
The bill, upon the Governor's assent, will have to be forwarded to the Centre for a constitutional amendment to include Kapus in the backward classes list under Schedule 9 and give validity to the quota as the five per cent proposed is over and above the stipulated 50 per cent reservation for different sections.
Though the bill, approved by the state Cabinet and passed in the Legislature in a span of 24 hours, was said to be based on the 'advice and recommendations' of the AP State Backward Classes Commission,. However, commission Chairman Justice K L Manjunatha denied having submitted any report.
"I have nothing to do with the (so-called) report. That's the report of the commission members only. As chairman of the commission, I will soon submit a report to the government.
"My recommendations will be acceptable to all," Manjunatha told a TV news channel even as the assembly was discussing the bill.
The lone opposition Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress lashed out at the Telugu Desam Party-led government, alleging that it hastily brought up the Kapu reservation issue to divert attention from the Polavaram project controversy.
"(Chief Minister N) Chandrababu (Naidu) is doing injustice to the Kapus. The BC Commission chairman himself said he did not submit any report to the government," YSRC Political Affairs Committee member Ambati Rambabu alleged.
"It is only to hoodwink the Kapus that the government brought up the bill," he alleged.
The Kapu Cell of the Andhra Pradesh Congress demanded that the government immediately publicise the commission report and extend 10 per cent reservation for Kapus.
The government, however, took pains to explain that a 'majority' of the commission members submitted their report recommending quota for the Kapus and, hence, there would not be any legal problems in the matter.
"The chairman is also like any other member of the commission. We have repeatedly requested him to submit the report but there has been inordinate delay.
"Hence, without waiting for the chairman's report, we accepted the report submitted by the other members," ministers Kalva Srinivasulu and P Narayana told reporters in the assembly premises.
There was no rule that says the report should be necessarily signed by the chairman, they said.
There are over 50.5 lakh Kapus across the state and the Telugu Desam Party, in its 2014 election manifesto, promised to provide reservations for them.
Following an agitation by the Kapus in January 2016, the government constituted the commission, headed by Manjunatha, a retired judge of the Karnataka high court, and asked it to submit a report within eight months.
The cabinet met here late on Friday night and 'accepted' the "commission's report" and decided to extend five per cent reservation for the Kapus.
The cabinet met again on Saturday morning and gave nod to a bill in this regard and accordingly it was moved first in the assembly and later in the council.
Since the YSR Congress had boycotted the ongoing session, the ruling party did not encounter any hurdle in getting the bill approved unopposed.
The Kapus, according to the bill, would be classified as Group F under the backward classes. While there are already 143 castes classified as BCs in the state, the inclusion of Kapus and their three sub-castes takes the total count to 147.
The BCs currently enjoy 29 per cent quota, including 4 per cent for Muslims who are classified as Group-E. The SCs enjoy 15 per cent and STs 6 per cent quota, making the total 50 per cent.
To enable the 5 per cent quota for the Kapus, the Centre will have to include it in Schedule 9 of the Constitution so as to insulate it from court's scrutiny.
The government, however, made it clear that no reservation would be provided to Kapus in 'political positions or political posts'.
The chief minister appealed to those concerned to pursue the matter with the Centre to get the quota for Kapus included in Schedule 9.