BJP backs off from RSS chief’s remarks on quota

The BJP declared itself in favour of reservations and denied it was in favour of its reconsideration.

September 22, 2015 01:54 am | Updated November 16, 2021 04:12 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

The Bihar polls, its complex caste matrix and protests by National Democratic Alliance partners outweighed the long-held views of the BJP, which distanced itself from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks for an “apolitical” relook at the reservation policy.

A day after an interview by Mr. Bhagwat to The Organiser and Panchajanya in which he said reservations needed to be reviewed by an apolitical body, the BJP declared itself in favour of reservations and denied it was in favour of its reconsideration.

“The BJP is not in favour of any reconsideration of reservations being extended to these groups: Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes , and Other Backward Classes,” said Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at a hastily called press conference. The BJP, he added, “had always supported reservation, we believe reservation is important for uplift.”

The statement was preceded by a tweet by BJP general secretary Ram Madhav that the “RSS clarifies that Shri Bhagwatji has not made any comment on the existing reservation system.” It was an acknowledgement that the RSS chief had led the party into the stinging nettles of caste quota politics.

RSS spokesperson Manmohan Vaidya then issued a statement that the interview was “only in reference to how the socially deprived classes should get constitutionally mandated benefits, and that all society should be concerned with the matter.”

In the interview, the RSS chief said the implementation of the reservation policy for the socially disadvantaged had been politicised and had not kept to the spirit in which it was intended. “We believe, form a committee of people genuinely concerned for the interest of the whole nation, committed for social equality including some representatives of society, they should decide which category deserves reservations and for how long. The non-political committee like an autonomous institution should be the implementation authority,” he said.

BJP allies and foes react angrily

The first to react to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s interview was the Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), an NDA ally from Bihar. Its general secretary Shivraj Singh told The Hindu that as far as the party was concerned “the debate on reservations does not exist. It has been settled for many years and mandated by the Constitution, therefore we don’t agree to any relook.”

BJP MP Udit Raj, too, reacted sharply. “Those who haven’t faced discrimination and atrocities will ask for a relook,” he said. The sharpest reaction came from Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad, who is part of an alliance with the Janata Dal (U) against the NDA. He dared “anyone to meddle with the system of reservations.”

The editor of The Organiser, Prafulla Ketkar, told The Hindu that the context of the statement should be considered. “The interview is part of a special issue of The Organiser on the 99th birth anniversary of Jan Sangh founder Deendayal Upadhyaya. The question on reservations was in the context of integral humanism and policy,” he said.

Nevertheless, reservations and the caste-based voting are issues over which the Sangh, in its bid to consolidate Hindu votes, has struggled for long. In fact, the RSS affiliated thinktank, Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, is inviting research papers to delve into reasons why caste quota seats in jobs do not get filled.

“These are old views actually, it is just that the timing of the interview could not have been worse,” said a senior BJP leader.

“At a time when we are claiming that we have Mandal II on our side with Ram Vilas Paswan, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha for the Bihar polls, this was an unnecessary controversy,” said the leader.

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