BJP backs quota but wants benefit for poor among forward castes

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BJP leaders (from right) Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L. K. Advani, Jaswant Singh and party president Rajnath Singh at the BJP's national executive meeting in New Delhi on Monday. _ PHOTO: V. SUDERSHAN
BJP leaders (from right) Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L. K. Advani, Jaswant Singh and party president Rajnath Singh at the BJP's national executive meeting in New Delhi on Monday. _ PHOTO: V. SUDERSHAN

Neena Vyas

Reiterates support for socially backward sections at national executive

Seen as an effort to ensure party does not lose forward castes support in U.P. For common civil code, ban on forced religions conversions, review of Article 370 Admits to lack of discipline in party

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday said that while it supported reservations for the socially backward sections , any "benefit of reservation" must also go the "economically weaker sections of the upper castes."

This was indicated directly by party president Rajnath Singh in his presidential address on the opening day of the two-day national executive committee meeting here.

With Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh due early next year, the party's stand was seen as an effort to ensure that while wooing the backward classes , it did not lose support among the forward castes. The party also talked about ensuring that "space for merit is not squeezed" and "excellence of institutions is not compromised."

Mr. Singh charged that the aim of the United Progressive Alliance Government was not to achieve social justice but to create social tensions and its eye was on a larger share of the backward caste vote.

For `creamy layer' concept

Later, the party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad made it clear that the BJP supported the idea of a "creamy layer" to keep out of the quota pie the privileged among the other backward sections. And, certainly, it did not want minority institutions to be kept out of the purview of a reservation policy, as there were a substantial number of backward groups within the minority community. The party would not support religion-based reservations.

Mr. Prasad pointed out that the BJP had pro-reservation credentials as it had supported affirmative action in its resolution in Bhopal in 1985.

When asked whether the BJP also wanted to take the forward castes along, and whether that would send a wrong signal to its staunchly pro-backward caste reservation allies such as the Janata Dal (United), Mr. Prasad's comment was that elections in Bihar were far away and the JD (U) would understand.

Mr. Singh's 12-page address, the first as party president, was peppered with references to key Hindutva issues supporting a common civil code, demanding a ban on religions conversions by force or allurement, suggesting a review of Article 370 demanding conferring a special status on Jammu and Kashmir, and attacking the UPA for "appeasement" of Muslims but he also lamented that the BJP had somewhat lost its distinctive character.

The party should "introspect" why questions had been raised about the party having lost its distinctive identity.

Against the backdrop of the recent exit from the party of Jharkhand MP, Babulal Marandi, Mr. Singh admitted lack of discipline in the party. "Indiscipline at every level has to be dealt with a firm hand at all costs," he asserted.

The BJP president accused the UPA of "incapable and ineffective leadership" that had led to a host of problems being raised.

He claimed that the Central Government's "soft policy" was responsible for the continuing challenge to the Indian State on internal security , especially terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalism in several States.

He charged the UPA with not paying heed to issues related to farmers and agriculture resulting in unabated suicides by farmers and depletion of food stocks.



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