RSS deserves praise for seeking review of quota policy; will political class follow suit?

Reservation has always been a politically hypersensitive issue in India with few daring to burn their fingers in this volatile matter. In such circumstances, the RSS's argument on reservation needs to be debated on merits. The organisation should be complimented for having courage to deliberate upon this socially and politically sensitive issue at length in their three-day long All India Pratinidhi Sabha meet. The meet discussed threadbare whether the current reservation policy is in sync with the spirit of the Constitution and ideas of framers of the Constitution or if it violates the same.

 RSS deserves praise for seeking review of quota policy; will political class follow suit?

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. AFP

No government or even any political party, national or regional, (even if one might privately agree) has the guts to say that the present quota policy needs a review, or even suggest that there was a need to make a fresh assessment whether the benefits of positive discrimination were reaching the intended beneficiaries or were being cornered by the affluent sections in OBCs, SCs and STs.

After all, for them the political cost of anti-reservation perception is too high.

The BJP has learnt that hard ways in Bihar elections. Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar used RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's statement to paint the BJP anti-OBC, anti-dalit and anti-reservation. No matter how hard the BJP and Modi government at the Centre tried to clarify or disassociate with Bhagwat's remarks on quota, that proved to be the turning point in way electioneer progressed in Bihar Assembly polls last year and in the final outcome, as we all know, the BJP badly lost the polls to RJD-JD(U).

A casteist riot and wilful damage of official property unleashed by Jats in Haryana saw the BJP government in the state yield to their demand and promise quota in government jobs and educational institutions to this most caste. It didn't matter that this caste was socially dominant, economically well off and politically influential. Same had happened with Gujjars in Rajasthan.

The brainstorming by the RSS on the reservation issue assumes much significance as BJP president Amit Shah also spoke at the meet on the concluding day.

The RSS has said nothing wrong. In fact it has rightly highlighted the malaise, which has over the decades crept in the official quota policy. Let's see the two statements made by RSS general secretary Baiyaji Joshi and earlier statement made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in an interview to Organiser and Panchjanya.

In a veiled reference to violent Jat agitation for reservation, Joshi said: "It is felt that this thinking (demand by affluent class) is not in the right direction. People of such (affluent) class should give up their rights and should help the weaker section of the society. But instead of that, they are demanding reservation for themselves which is not a thinking in the right direction." He also referred to BR Ambedkar's thoughts in this regard and constitutional provisions thereto. "Baba Ambedkar gave the provision of reservation. It was for social justice. Today, the level of education of dalit class has improved......There are many backward castes today. It should be studied and discussed whether the deserving castes are getting reservation benefits. This issue should be studied," he said, adding "it is also a matter of detailed discussion whether or not creamy layer system should be there in all categories," the NDTV reported.

The issue was promptly lapped up by the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Parliament. But the government was equally swift in clarifying that it had no intentions to review the existing quota policy. In Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said “it is the stated policy of Government that present arrangement of reservation will be maintained.” He added that RSS had not said what was being attributed to it (scrap existing quota policy).

In Sept 2015, Bhagwat had said almost same thing but given the political heat of Bihar elections, it had become hugely controversial.

According to NDTV, in response to a question on "integrity and honesty" as the main parameters and does he "see any such policy initiative, undertaken or suggestive, which is in tune with Integral Humanism", Bhagwat had said: "Reservation for socially backward classes is the right example in this regard. If we would have implemented this policy as envisaged by the Constitution makers instead of doing politics over it, then present situation would not have arrived. Since inception it has been politicised. We believe, form a committee of people genuinely concerned for the interest of the whole nation and committed for social equality, including some representatives from the society, they should decide which categories require reservation and for how long. The non-political committee, like autonomous commissions, should be the implementation authority; political authorities should supervise them for honesty and integrity."

Again nothing wrong in that. At some point in time the government of the day has to show courage and certain conviction to re-assess the reservation policy, if not to scrap it but to see whether it was serving the purpose the framers of constitution had envisaged.

Former prime minister VP Singh brought out Mandal Committee recommendations from cold storage and implement it for his survival and use it as a political counter to an aggressive challenge from Devi Lal. An Arjun Singh as HRD minister brought out a defunct proposal to give reservation to OBCs in educational institution to counter his marginalisation in UPA 1 regime. An aggressive duo of Lalu Prasad and Sharad Yadav would make Manmohan Singh government agree to hold caste based census and open a Pandora's box, a sitting time bomb so to say.

The RSS at least has dared to say something, which a large section of political class believes is right, but would never say so.

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Updated Date: Mar 14, 2016 22:36:00 IST