Just as the heat of electioneering in Uttar Pradesh was picking up, Manmohan Vaidya, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh of RSS has dropped a bombshell, which could potentially implode BJP's poll prospects in India's politically most critical state.
Vaidya has gone one step ahead of what RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had said ahead of the Bihar assembly — review and abolish the reservation for scheduled castes and tribes, and other social groups. It could be allowed to continue in perpetuity for permanency of reservation was never envisioned by the makers of Indian constitution. Continuance of reservation to these communities will have divisive effects on society and thus it was imperative on the policy makers to look for other avenues to uplift conditions of deprived communities.
In response to a question at Jaipur Literature Festival, Vaidya said "arkashan ka visay Bharat me anusuchit jati aur anusuchit janjati ke jihaj se alag sandarbh me aya hai. enhe lambe samay thak suvidhayon se vanchit rakha gaya hai. Bhimrao Ambedkar ne bhi kaha hai ki kisi bhi sahtra me aise arakshan ka pravdhan hamesa nahi rakh sakta, ise jald se jald khatam karke avsar dena chahiye, iske bajaye sikhsha aur samman avsar ka mauka dena chahiye. Isse samaj me bhed ka nirman ho raha hai."
The top RSS man's remark instantaneously warmed up the political temperature and sparked off a most contentious point for public discourse in the run up to elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other states. Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, BSP leader Sudhindra Badhoria, Samajwadi Party's Asim Waqar and Congress leader PL Punia and lapped up the issue to blast BJP.
In simple terms the BJP rivals claimed that Vaidya's statement yet again proved that BJP-RSS are against reservation to SCs-STs and OBCs.
When the RSS was invited to the Jaipur Lit Fest, some eyebrows were raised but then it was argued that several political and social organisations had in the past been participating at this event.
Incidentally, the controversy broke out on a day when the Congress had petitioned complaining Election Commission that RSS was campaigning for the BJP and the expenditure made by them should be accounted.
While BJP leaders would be deeply disturbed and cursing the moment when RSS leaders were invited and accepted the invite to speak at the festival, the BJP's rivals and critics would surely be rejoicing. The BJP leaders have a most difficult time in defending or rationalising what Vaidya spoke.
Vaidya's remarks came at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah had been tirelessly working to lure SCs, STs and OBCs to BJP fold through a series of public events and policy initiatives. The Modi government and BJP has over the past two years has done everything in their command to proclaim that they are the real champions of Ambedkar's idea on all kinds of issues. Even the Prime Minister's latest initiative on digital payment is called "BHIM". In his public rallies Modi has gone at length talking as to why he named this digital payment app BHIM, as a tribute to Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.
In one single stroke, Vaidya has potentially done more harm to the BJP and to its social constituency in SCs, STs and OBCs than the combined might of SP, BSP and Congress could have done.
It should be noted that Vaidya was "Prant Pramukh" (regional head) of the RSS in Gujarat and had a running feud against Modi as chief minister of the state. Ahead of 2012 Gujarat assembly elections, Vaidya, apparently on Modi's insistence was moved out of Gujarat to New Delhi to take care of RSS's publicity wing.
It only natural for some in the BJP to recall Modi-Vaidya relationship after latter has given a ballistic ammunition to party's rivals in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttrakhand and Manipur where election process has already begun.
Let's consider what Bhagwat had said in September 2015. Firstpost had then written: "the question asked to Mohan Bhagwat by the interviewer was not on reservation. The question was: “You said integrity and honesty are the main parameters. Do you see any such policy initiative, undertaken or suggestive, which is in tune with integral humanism? To which Bhagwat responded by saying, the 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."
Some BJP leaders like Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav had openly blamed Bhagwat for turning the electoral tide against the BJP and defeat in Bihar elections.
Vaidya could have just helped BJP rivals in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Party leaders in Goa, Uttrakhand and Manipur could also be on alert.
Updated Date: Jan 20, 2017 20:16:06 IST