BJP breathes easy as RSS chief backs reservations

Mohan Bhagwat
Mohan Bhagwat

NAGPUR (TIP): RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on October 22 expressed support for reservations provided for under the Constitution, in a big relief to BJP which is having to fend off accusations of being “anti-quota” during the crucial Bihar polls.

The RSS chief began his annual Dussehra speech by praising Ambedkar. “He made a life-long struggle against the injustice of social inequality and made provisions in the Constitution thereby eradicating those discriminations from political and economic spheres of our national life,” Bhagwat said in what read like an endorsement of the reservations provided for under the Constitution for the socio-economically underprivileged- in other words, SCs/STs and the OBCs.

The speech was marked by praise for Modi government, absence of any reference to the recent flare-up in communal tensions in certain parts, criticism of judiciary for meddling with the rituals of Jains and an appeal for framing a policy for population control by disregarding ‘vote bank’ politics.

Significantly, Bhagwat stressed the importance for dialogue for bringing about a change in customary religious practices and cultural tradition. “We should not be guided by cheap popularity or political incentives. What is truthful and just should be our guiding principle. By adopting a compassionate approach towards every section of society, we can change their approach through a friendly and respectable dialogue,” he said. Although he made the remark in the context of a court verdict banning Santhara – the custom of Jain elders fasting themselves to death — it was at odds with the usual right-wing pitch of early enactment of the Common Civil Code.

For BJP, the remarks on reservation could not have been more timely. Its chief opponents in Bihar, RJD boss Lalu Prasad and chief minister Nitish Kumar, have cited Bhagwat’s advocacy for a review of the working of quotas to accuse BJP of being anti-quota and seek to mobilize Dalits and OBCs against the party. BJP chief Amit Shah has dismissed the charge by declaring party’s “unequivocal support” to quotas and even RSS, uncharacteristically, came out with a statement to say the same. However, opponents have refused to let go of the matter.

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In fact, in his speech Bhagwat stressed that the year happens to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar, and even quoted his powerful predecessor, M S Golwalkar, to describe the framer of the Constitution as “confluence of Acharya Shankar’s sharp intellect and Tathagat Buddha’s unbounded compassion”.

Bhagwat’s speech, 90th by a chief of the parent Hindutva outfit, came just before the Bihar battle enters the terrain BJP considers to be more friendly.

Bhagwat also gave a big thumbs up to the Narendra Modi government endorsing that it was moving in the right direction and should deliver results soon. “When we ponder over the present situation in the country, we get a very optimistic and soothing view. The atmosphere of disappointment and lost faith, which existed couple of years back, has evaporated.

An atmosphere of expectations has come to the fore, generating a sense of optimism that such expectations shall be fulfilled,” said the RSS chief, the remark contrasting so starkly with the perception about rise in communal tension in certain parts.

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