The remarks by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on quota triggered strong reactions from the RJD and the Congress on Monday, with the RSS issuing a clarification and the BJP seeking to end the controversy by saying it was not in favour of reconsideration of reservation.
Seizing on the remarks by Bhagwat made in the run-up the crucial Bihar assembly polls, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad dared him and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to end education and job quotas.
“I challenge the RSS and the BJP to end reservations,” the former Bihar chief minister posted on Twitter.
Lalu Prasad said 80 percent of the country’s population was made up of Dalits and backwards who would oppose any attempt to do away with reservations.
“The RSS is talking about ending reservations and we are talking about increasing it on the basis of the population,” he said.
Sensing that Bhagwat’s remarks made during an interview was turning into a big political issue, both the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP came up with separate statements. The RSS is seen as the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.
Apparently distancing itself from the remarks, the BJP repeatedly said it does not favour reconsideration of the reservation policy.
“The BJP firmly believes that reservation is important for the social, education and economic development of the SC, ST, OBC, Backwards and extremely backwards classes. The BJP is not in favour of any reconsideration of these constitutional provisions,” the party said.
“Right from the day of its inception and even before the Jana Sangh days, the BJP very firmly supported the constitutional reservation for the SC, ST, OBC, backwards and extremely backwards classes,” the party said.
“However, the BJP is further of the view that if further measures are suggested for those who are economically and socially backwards, then the same is welcome,” it said.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also spoke to the media and said there should be a debate how to extend the benefit of reservation to those poor and backward classes who have been left out.
Bhagwat on Sunday pitched for a review of the reservation policy, contending it had been used for political ends and suggested setting up an apolitical committee to examine who needs the facility and till when.
With the controversy brewing up over Bhagwat’s remarks, the RSS in a statement suggested that its chief’s remarks during the interview were misconstrued in the media.
“Bhagwat ji has not commented on the reservation being availed by different weaker sections of the society,” RSS chief spokesman Manmohan Vaidya said.
“Instead, he had said that everybody should discuss how benefits of reservation should reach all weaker sections of the society as envisaged by the constitution makers.
“The subject of the interview was integral humanism, not reservation,” the statement added.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala slammed Bhagwat’s remark on quotas and also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue, alleging that as chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had pursued “anti-Dalit” policies.
He said Bhagwat sought a “review of reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and backward classes”.
“It is a manifestation of the anti-poor mindset espoused by the RSS and the BJP. The RSS-BJP combine continue to spread polarising agenda to undermine the rights of deprived and underprivileged, particularly the SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes,” Surjewala alleged.
He said the Congress introduced the system of reservation for SCs, STs in government employment, educational institutions as well as elected bodies as part of affirmative action enshrined in India’s Constitution.
Surjewala alleged that Modi as chief minister of Gujarat did not hold a meeting of SC Sub Plan (SCSP) and ST Sub Plan (STSP).
“The policy had not been intentionally implemented on account of malafide and malicious intent of the then chief minister,” he alleged.
Surjewala said the population of SCs in Gujarat was 14 percent but allocation of budget for them was only 5.42 percent when Modi was the chief minister.