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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

Lok Sabha elections: RSS joins BJP quota firefight as unease grows 

Speaking at a school event in Hyderabad, Bhagwat asserted that the RSS had supported reservations “since the beginning” and favoured the policy’s continuation as long as “it is necessary”

J.P. Yadav New Delhi Published 29.04.24, 04:58 AM
Mohan Bhagwat.

Mohan Bhagwat. File picture.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday joined the BJP leadership in trying to allay fears about the possible abolition of reservations, an apprehension apparently widespread among segments of Dalit and tribal voters.

The clarification from the head of the BJP’s ideological fountainhead indicated a growing unease in the wider Sangh Parivar about the issue dominating the narrative during the general election.

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Speaking at a school event in Hyderabad, Bhagwat asserted that the RSS had supported reservations “since the beginning” and favoured the policy’s continuation as long as “it is necessary”.

His clarification assumes significance since, during the 2015 Bihar polls, he had suggested a review of the reservation policy claiming it was being used for electoral purposes. The remark, suggesting a disapproval of reservations, was believed to have harmed the BJP.

“A video is being circulated that the RSS is against reservations and that we cannot speak (our minds) outside about the issue. Now this is completely false,” Bhagwat said on Sunday.

Ye galat baat hai, asatya hai (This is wrong, false),” he was heard saying in a video put out by news agency ANI.

“The Sangh has been supporting all reservation as per the Constitution since the beginning. And, the Sangh says that it should continue as long as those for whom it exists feel that it is necessary.”

Bhagwat added: “It (reservation policy) should continue as long as discrimination exists in society.”

The BJP’s initial campaign pitch for “400-plus” seats seemed to have spread a fear — stoked by the Opposition — that it was eyeing such a huge majority because it wanted to change the Constitution and scrap reservations.

This compelled Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah to clarify — just before and after the first round of polling on April 19 — that the party had no such plans.

Since then, Modi and his party have launched a counter-offensive accusing the Opposition, instead, of planning to tinker with the Constitution and offer religion-based reservation to Muslims.

This has largely been seen as an attempt to put the Opposition on the defensive regarding reservations and, at the same time, boost the BJP’s continuing effort to polarise voters on religious lines.

Bhagwat did not clarify which video he was referring to. However, Telangana chief minister Revanth Reddy had earlier accused the BJP of planning to change the Constitution by 2025 and “make it as per the RSS”. Bhagwat may have been referring to this since he was speaking in Telangana capital Hyderabad.

Since his controversial remark in 2015, Bhagwat has multiple times asserted a commitment to the continuance of reservations for the underprivileged.

Last year, he acknowledged that social discrimination in Indian society was a reality, and so the quota policy should continue as long as inequality exists.

On Sunday, Shah again tried to combat the Opposition’s narrative about the BJP being anti-reservation.

“Rahul Gandhi and the Congress are misleading the country on reservation,”
Shah told ANI. “For appeasement, Congress has tried to end reservation by giving
the facility to minorities in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh by depriving SCs, STs and OBCs.”

He reiterated that it was “Modji’s guarantee that as long as the BJP is there, Congress will not be able to even touch reservation”.

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