BJP rejects RSS chief view
Just before we went live, RSS issued a clarification that Mohan Bhagwat did not speak about existing reservation system.
In the midst of the bitter caste politics played by all main stakeholders in the Bihar polls, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has triggered a major debate by suggesting the review of caste-based reservations. The statement made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat caught even the BJP by surprise as the party swiftly moved to undertake damage control exercise in view of the Bihar elections where votary of Mandal politics like Lalu Prasad have turned the poll into a battle of castes.
With Lalu Prasad and his ally Janata Dal (U) daring the Government to review the reservation policy and NDA ally Rashtriya Loktrantrik Samata Party also criticizing Bhagwat’s statement, the BJP said it did not support the RSS chief’s view. Soon after the BJP statement, the RSS also issued release claiming Bhagwat had only talked about the need to take the benefit of the reservation to those who should gain from it.
But the damage may have been done. In Bihar, where the backward castes and dalits and mahadalits form nearly 70 percent of the population, Bhagawat’s ill-timed statement could adversely impact the BJP chances unless the party was able to counter the Opposition propaganda on the issue which is bound to dominate the poll campaign.
In an interview to the RSS mouthpiece Organiser, Bhagwat said: ”Reservations for socially backward classes is the right example in this regard. If we would have implemented this policy as envisaged by the Constitution makers instead of doing politics over it, then present situation would not have arrived. Since inception it has been politicised. We believe, form a committee of people genuinely concerned for the interest of the whole nation and committed for social equality, including some representatives from the society, they should decide which categories require reservation and for how long. The non-political committee like autonomous commissions should be the implementation authority; political authorities should supervise them for honesty and integrity.”
The BJP, which rarely questions the Chief of the Sangh Parivar, was quick to distance itself from his statement, asserting it respected the provision of reservation for the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward castes as it was needed for their social and economic development and empowerment.
“It is BJP’s firm commitment since Jan Sangh days that reservation is essential for social and economic development and empowerment of SCs, STs, backward and extremely backward castes. BJP is not in favour of any reconsideration of reservation being extended to these groups.”
– Senior party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad in a press conference.
Prasad said a discussion was welcome on what further can be done for the poor and “leftover” backward communities who have not been able to reap benefits of development, while insisting that BJP was all for the existing benefits to continue. “BJP indeed is very clear and very categorical that there is no need to reconsider reservation nor does BJP support it (such demand),” he said.
While the BJP rejected Bhagwat’s view, the RSS chief got support from senior Congress leader and former Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari who did not find any justification for caste-based reservation in the 21st century. He instead felt that economic condition, and not caste, should be the basis for such reservations.
“Notwithstanding whatever Bhagwat has articulated, the time has come to revisit the premise as to whether reservation is at all contextual in the 21st century. And if at all it is contextual then should the basis of reservation be economic as poverty is the biggest indice of backwardness?”
– Congress leader and former UPA minister Manish Tewari
RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who has said the Bihar poll will be a fight to restore the supremacy of the Mandal politics (reservation policy), dared the Modi government to o scrap the reservation policy. “If you have drunk your mother’s milk then have it scrapped, each would know his strength.”
Lalu who has launched a caste-based campaign in Bihar to polarize the backward castes against the BJP said, ”The so-called tea seller and recently-turned backward (Narendra) Modi should tell if he will finish reservations at his master (Mohan) Bhagwat’s bidding.”
“No matter how much RSS and BJP try to create an atmosphere for finishing reservation, dalits and backwards who constitute 80 per cent of the country will give a befitting reply,” he said.
While Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar remained silent on the issue, his party Janata Dal (U) criticized Bhagwat for seeking a review of the reservation policy. “Janata Dal (United) totally rejects and condemns the proposal of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat regarding appointment of a committee to review the reservation policy of the SC/ST and backwards,” party general secretary K C Tyagi said in a statement.
In the midst of the uproar over Bhagwat’s statement, the RSS issued a statement saying that the RSS chief had not made any comment on reservation policy and only spoke on the need to take the benefit of the reservation to the targeted groups as envisaged by the makers of the Indian Constitutions.
But the controversy may continue to shimmer as the anti-NDA formations in Bihar have got a readymade issue to consolidate their vote bank.
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