Unfazed by the protests over the issue of reservation for Other Backward Classes, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, on Sunday rejected suggestions for a re-look into the proposals for reservation in elite educational institutions and said it was up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to decide when to bring the matter to the Cabinet.
Singh, projecting himself as the champion of the cause, however, left it to the Union Cabinet and Parliament to take a decision on the matter.
"This is entirely for the Cabinet to decide. As soon as the prime minister allows it, a decision will be taken," he told reporters who wanted to know whether a Bill in this regard would come up in the ongoing brief session of Parliament.
Singh dismissed as propaganda attempts to project the anti-reservation agitation as "Mandal II". "There is no Mandal II, III or IV. It is all propaganda to vitiate the whole atmosphere."
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At the same time, the HRD minister said he was ready to talk to the agitating students. "I will always talk to the protesting students."
Slamming the National Knowledge Commission headed by Sam Pitroda, majority of whose members have rejected the quota proposal, Singh said "Well, with all due respect to the great Knowledge Commission, I must point out to them that they are not above the Constitution.
"They do not need to speak to any of us. Let them decide and the country will follow them if they are above the Constitution," he said.
On the middle-path advocated by party leader Rahul Gandhi, who had said that those who favour and those oppose the quota both have valid points, he said a middle path could only be found in a calm and cool atmosphere and not when lathis were being used by one side and slogans by the other.
"If there is no understanding in society, no strategy works. The issue can be resolved through talks. If those who did not get anything, they have to be given something, which is to be decided," he said.
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The HRD minister sought to buttress his point by saying that no party was against the proposal, which had been passed in Lok Sabha with near unanimity. "If anybody wants to change their stand, they are free to do," he said.
Singh parried several questions saying he would give clarifications, if asked, in the Cabinet and Parliament.
Giving firm indications that he was determined to press the issue of OBC quota despite protests, Singh said, "We are a democracy and not a banana republic. You cannot hijack the process and browbeat me."
Singh condemned the police lathi charge on students agitating against reservation and said if people want to make their point peacefully, they have a right to do so.
"Lathi is not the answer to anything," he said, appealing to students to maintain calm.
"There is no need for desperation and anger. The issues can be resolved with patience."
"Through protest and one-sided actions, we cannot resolve the issue. So, there is neither a need nor is it proper to disturb peace. Nobody is talking about removing the students who are studying in the institutions at present," he said.
To a question on President A P J Abdul Kalam and the prime minister talking about increasing seats in the educational institutions as a possible solution, Singh said many people have said so many things about it.
Singh said the Cabinet is an instrument and Parliament is sovereign and both together would have to decide on the issue.