New Delhi: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat called for a “harmonious conversation” on reservation Sunday, but with a crucial assembly election season around the corner, the BJP is treading with caution.
Speaking to ThePrint, BJP leaders said reservation was a constitutional position and the party supported quotas for socially-weaker sections. One leader of the party, however, expressed support for Bhagwat’s call for debate.
Addressing an event Sunday, Bhagwat had said an earlier attempt by him to start a conversation about reservation created a lot of noise, diverting the discussion from the actual issue.
In 2015, right before the Bihar assembly elections, the RSS chief had called for a review of the reservation policy, saying it was being used for political ends. The BJP, which is the political wing of the RSS, lost the assembly election, winning just 53 of the 157 seats it contested.
Three years later, speaking in Indore, he had said the RSS “fully supports” reservation provided in the Constitution, saying it was up to the beneficiaries to decide how long it should continue.
In light of Bhagwat’s fresh statement, there are apprehensions in the BJP and it is wary of taking up the issue for discussion within the party or the government, with elections to the Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana assemblies months away.
“This is not a case of my personal opinion or that of anyone else. The BJP has always been in favour of reservation and will continue to do so,” BJP national general secretary P. Muralidhar Rao told ThePrint, when asked to comment on Bhagwat’s statement.
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Senior BJP leader and Minister of State for Steel Faggan Singh Kulaste said state governments decided on the quantum of reservation after factoring in the social and economic conditions of various sections of society.
“A few state governments have already provided reservation that has crossed the Supreme Court ceiling of almost 50 per cent,” he said, “But there is no question of scrapping reservation across the country.”
Of the states headed for polls, reservation currently measures at much over 50 per cent in Maharashtra, in light of a recent quota for Marathas and the 10 per cent set aside for poor of the general category by the Modi government.
According to Kulaste, the reservation in place for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes is constitutional and the current situation does not warrant a review.
“Mohan Bhagwat ji ne Indore ke ek karyakram mai bhi aise vichaar vyakt kiye the (Mohan Bhagwat had expressed similar views at an Indore programme once),” he said, “Lekin BJP ka bohat hee spasht mat hai ki arakshan ko khatam karne pe vichaar karne ka samay abhi nahi aaya hai (there’s a clear consensus in the BJP that it is not time yet to discuss scrapping reservation).”
The only leader who endorsed Bhagwat’s viewpoint was BJP’s SC Morcha president Vinod Sonkar, who said the intent with which reservation was introduced and the benefits it has provided need to be debated. “There are a number of issues that the country faces and debates on them are quite normal,” he added. “So this should also be debated.”
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