Modi and Lalu Prasad spar over the issue of reservations for Muslims

PM says Opposition wants to snatch reservations from SCs, STs and OBCs to offer to Muslims; Lalu Prasad counters that BJP wants to scrap the Constitution

May 07, 2024 02:53 pm | Updated 10:11 pm IST - Patna

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. File.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad on Tuesday sparred over the issue of reservations for Muslims, with Mr. Modi accusing the Opposition of being unable to look “beyond appeasement” after Mr. Prasad had supported the idea of reservation for Muslims.

Hours later, Mr. Prasad clarified that he was in favour of extending reservation benefits to Muslims on the basis of social backwardness and “not on the basis of religion”.

The issue of reservation and the Constitutional provisions have headlined the election campaign of both the INDIA bloc and the NDA so far. While the INDIA bloc leaders have argued that the BJP is seeking a tally of 400 plus seats in the Lok Sabha to end reservations to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, the BJP has argued that the Congress wants to snatch reservations from SC, STs and OBCs to include Muslims.

“A person who has been serving sentences for eating up fodder meant for cattle (a reference to the fodder scam), who is out on bail because of poor health, has said just a few hours ago that reservations should be given to Muslims. The gentlemen is revered by the Congress. Just look at their brazenness,” Mr. Modi said at an election rally in the Dhar region of Madhya Pradesh.

“He is saying not only Muslims should get reservations but all the reservations should be given to Muslims. It means they want all the reservation to Muslims by snatching it from SCs, STs and OBCs,” the Prime Minister added.

Mr Modi alleged that the Opposition is doing such things because minorities were the only vote bank with them. Noting that the late B.R. Ambedkar was given the Bharat Ratna in 1990 when the Congress was not in power at the Centre, Mr Modi said, “Should such people (Opposition bloc) be kept away from politics forever or not? This will be the biggest tribute to B.R. Ambedkar.”

The Prime Minister’s comment at an election rally was a response to Mr. Prasad’s media interaction with Patna, during which the RJD chief, when asked about reservations for Muslims, had said, “Reservation to milna chahiye Musalmano ko (Muslims must get reservation).”

When his comments snowballed into a political controversy, Mr. Prasad clarified that he suggested reservations on the basis of backwardess as was suggested by the Mandal Commission. Notably, several Muslim sub-groups figure in the lists of OBCs in Bihar and a number of other States.

Mr. Prasad said, “I am senior to Narendra Modi. He does not know many things that I know. It was during my reign that Mandal Commission recommendations were implemented (in Bihar).”

“There are hundreds of social groups which got reservations as per the Mandal Commission report. But it was done not on the basis of religion. In the Constitution, there is no provision for reservations on religious basis,” he added.

Mr. Prasad also alleged, “Narendra Modi and his party want to scrap the Constitution and do away with reservations. This is proven by the fact that the previous BJP government headed by late Atal Bihari Vajpayee had set up a commission to review the Constitution.”

“They boast about a 400 plus tally. But they are going to be snuffed out (khud hi paar ho jaayenge). The third phase of polls is under way. In Bihar, our alliance is going to win all the five seats where voting is taking place. Long queues at polling booths in the current and previous phases are proof that winds of change are blowing, ” Mr. Prasad said.

Meanwhile, Chirag Paswan, the leader of NDA alliance partner in Bihar, Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), condemned Mr. Prasad’s statement over Muslim reservation and asserted that the NDA would cross the 400 mark in the Lok Sabha election.

Polling on five seats in Bihar — Jhanjharpur, Araria, Khagaria, Madhepura and Supaul — took place in the third phase.

(With PTI inputs)

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