RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is all set to deliver a speech on national television on…
Kolkata(The Telegraph): The BJP on Monday disowned Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohanrao Bhagwat’s call for a second look at the country’s reservation policy, scrambling to reaffirm its pro-quota credentials in the run-up to the Bihar polls.
Bhagwat had on Sunday suggested a reassessment of which socially backward classes needed reservation and for how long, stirring the electoral pot in Bihar.
Lalu Prasad and the Janata Dal United have lambasted his comments, alleging that if elected in Bihar, the BJP would end job and education quotas.
Union minister and Bihar politician Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday rushed to tell the media that the BJP was “not in favour of any recommendation of reconsideration of reservation” to the Dalits, tribals and the Other Backward Classes.
A late-evening media statement from the BJP not just expressed support for reservation but even suggested its future extension to new groups.
It said the party “firmly believes that reservation is important for the social, education and economic development of these groups”.
The BJP, therefore, is “not in favour of any reconsideration of these constitutional provisions” and, rather, would welcome “further measures for those who are economically and socially backward”.
Earlier, Lalu Prasad had dared the Narendra Modi government to scrap the quotas, tweeting: “If you have drunk your mother’s milk, then have it scrapped, each would know his strength.”
He further tweeted: “The so-called tea seller and recently turned backward, Modi, should say if he would end reservations at his master Bhagwat’s bidding.”
A PTI report said the Sangh had clarified that its chief was not speaking of the existing quotas.
BJP managers are worried that Bhagwat’s remarks could undermine the party’s boast about fielding a “record” number of Dalit and backward candidates in Bihar.
Of the 153 tickets distributed, 65 have gone to the upper castes with Rajputs bagging 30, while 88 have been distributed among the Dalits, backwards and extremely backwards.
The biggest gainers have been the Yadavs, a group the BJP had given wide berth in the past assuming its loyalty to Lalu Prasad was impregnable. This time, 22 Yadavs have got BJP tickets.
Party president Amit Shah crafted the Yadav outreach to unsettle the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s stranglehold over the community’s votes and breach its Muslim-Yadav vote bank.
BJP sources claimed that a large section of young Yadavs, “nurturing aspirations to a better life than that offered by the RJD”, looked at Modi’s BJP as an alternative.
Sources said the hint at fresh quotas for the “economically and socially backward” had come against the backdrop of the Patel protests in Gujarat to press for Other Backward Classes status.
Even in the West, members of the Patel diaspora have threatened to show up on the streets during Modi’s visit to America and, later, Britain.
“Gujarat is the backyard of Modi and Shah. We had to do a balancing act to mollify tempers in Bihar and not allow things to go out of hand in Gujarat,” a source said.
Bhagwat’s comments, made to Sangh weeklies Organiser and Panchjanya, came days after the BJP had to cope with a Shiv Sena-instigated controversy.
In Maharashtra, Sena transport minister Diwakar Raote had declared that a working knowledge of Marathi would be a must for obtaining auto-rickshaw permits in Mumbai. He explained that the rule would help “local” youths get jobs.
Mumbai’s auto-rickshaw drivers include many migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, who feared losing their licences. But the BJP, which heads Maharashtra’s ruling coalition, kept mum.
Later, party sources claimed the Sena was “merely” enforcing the Motor Vehicles Act, which allows taxi and auto-rickshaw permits in Maharashtra only to those who have lived in the state for 15 years and have a working knowledge of the local language.
Lalu Prasad and the Dal United have slammed Raote’s stand in their campaigns.