Tuesday February 25, 2020
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Quotas: RSS got it right – for once

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, Mohan Bhagwat, deserves a mild round of applause for calling for a relook at the reservations policy.

RSSFollowing his suggestion, at least three Congress leaders have gathered enough courage to say that a review should consider making economic status rather than caste the basis of quotas.

Before last year’s general election, a senior Congress leader, Janardhan Dwivedi, had made a similar statement.

It is unlikely, however, that their bosses in the party, the mother-and-son duo of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, will back them considering that the Congress president had forced a reluctant Manmohan Singh to renew the inclusion of caste data in the census operations of 2011 after a gap of eight decades.

Her objective was no different from that of the Hindi belt leaders who use the bait of providing education and employment in government institutions to specific caste groups to build up their support bases.

It is this unabashed partisan purpose which has seemingly persuaded the RSS chief to seek an assessment of the quota system for those sections which “require reservation and for how long”.

However, the timing of Bhagwat’s suggestion was disadvantageous for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for it enabled its opponents in the forthcoming Bihar elections to accuse the BJP of an upper caste bias which seeks to block the upward mobility of the lower castes by ending the quota system.

The BJP-led Rajasthan government’s decision to allot quotas to the economically weaker sections of the “forward” castes has also provided grist to the party’s opponents. A similar initiative has also been taken in BJP-ruled Gujarat.

Notwithstanding these steps, the BJP is trying to distance itself from its mentor’s counsel and the RSS, too, is now hemming and hawing about the issue because it has belatedly realised that it had wandered into an area where angels fear to tread.

It will be a mistake, however, to believe that Bhagwat’s observations have anything to do with the visions of Jawaharlal Nehru and other stalwarts of the freedom movement who wanted the caste system to wither away in an independent India with the growth of a meritocracy because of the spread of quality education and the cultivation of a scientific temper.

Instead, the RSS chief’s concerns cannot be unrelated to the angst of the Patel community in Gujarat, which has been disheartened by the lack of education and employment opportunities because of the inroads made into these fields by groups which flaunt their reservation rights even if they may be less qualified than those who are outside the ambit of the quota system.

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Hence, the demand of the gun-toting and sword-wielding young leader of the generally well-off Patels or Patidars, as they are also known, Hardik Patel, that his community be included in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

Considering that he has called for either an inclusion in the quota system, or for dispensing with the reservations altogether, there is little doubt that he has touched a chord in the hearts of not only the upper castes, who have always been against the reservations, but also those who believe that this form of affirmative action has fostered vested interests who deliberately ignore the original idea of the quotas being offered for a limited period and that, too, for only the two most deprived groups – the Dalits and Adivasis.

Instead, the quotas have been extended to communities like the politically influential Yadavs even if they still experience some of the social stigma because of their ‘backwardness’.

What is more, the Supreme Court’s directive about denying what is called the ‘creamy layers’, or those who have benefitted from the reservations, any further access to quotas has been studiously circumvented by successive governments of various hues.

However, as is evident from the suggestions that the quota system be reoriented towards the poorer sections of all castes, the present virtual travesty of the original intent of the reservations is becoming increasingly obvious.

Yet, the political class is too focused on making immediate gains by playing the caste card to see how the unavoidable fallout of the denial of opportunity to the meritorious can breed social tension, as the agitation of the Patels show.

At present, only Narendra Modi has made an attempt to turn the spotlight on development even if his party, and especially its allies, are not averse to playing the caste game in Bihar.

Otherwise, all the other parties, including the supposedly progressive Left, have made no attempt to mobilise public opinion against quotas while the Aam Admi Party is too busy making space for itself in politics to spend much time on a contentious subject.

The murmurs in the Congress about a new approach show that the ingrained sycophancy of its members towards the Nehru-Gandhis hasn’t yet made the party totally brain dead. But, unfortunately, neither Sonia nor Rahul has the intellectual prowess to consider the matter with all its implications and chart a new course.

The Bihar elections are important in this context because there will be a direct contest between a pro-development and a pro-casteist outlook. Last year, the development model had received a thumbs-up signal from the voters. The results on November 8 will show their present mindset.

Amulya Ganguli, IANS

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Congress To Use Tribal Card to Regain Power in the Country

Congress to use tribal card to improve countrywide position

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Congress Chhattisgarh
Congress will be using the tribal card to regain dominance and their plan of action will begin from Chhattisgarh. Wikimedia Commons

BY SANDEEP PAURANIK

In order to regain dominance in the country, the Congress is mulling using the tribal card. This plan of action is to be first implemented in Chhattisgarh.

Riding on the success of the Assembly and urban body elections, the Congress feels that it can increase it base through tribals as they constitute 8 per cent of the total population.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the first three Assembly elections in the state, after its formation in 2000, recorded huge victories and came to power. But after the Assembly elections held last year, the scenario changed. After registering a victory in the Assembly elections and then in the urban body polls, the Congress showed that it still dominates the tribal areas.

Rahul Gandhi Congress
Former President of Congress Rahul Gandhi gave an important message while innaugrating the National Tribal Dance Festival in Raipur. Wikimedia Commons

The Congress gave the responsibility of the tribal areas to the tribal leader of Madhya Pradesh Umang Singhar which eventually helped the party. Now, the party is planning to spread out nationwide through Chhattisgarh.

Former party president Rahul Gandhi, while inaugurating the National Tribal Dance Festival in Raipur, gave a message to the tribals who are here to participate in the festival that the Chhattisgarh government is working for all the sections and this is the reason why there has been a downward trend in naxal attacks and the state economy has also improved.

The Congress is planning to publicise the improvements in Chhattisgarh throughout the country because the tribal population in the state is 32 per cent.

BJP media panellist Sandeep Sharma, however, claims that the party’s base has not shrunk. He said till Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were not divided, the Congress was strong in the area but in the elections held after three years of the bifurcation, the BJP won the Assembly elections and was in power for 15 years. Though we faced defeat in the 2018 elections, the only reason was that people wanted a change but they were not angry with the BJP, he claimed.

The BJP won in the Lok Sabha elections and the margin in the urban body elections was also not much. So, it would be inappropriate to say that the BJP’s base has shrunk, he said adding that in one year the Congress’ base has declined by 9 per cent whereas in Assembly elections it got 12 per cent more votes and in urban body elections the margin was 3 per cent.

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The Congress is planning to publicise the improvements in Chhattisgarh throughout the country. Wikimedia Commons

Analysing the political landscape of the state, political analyst Rudra Awasthi said, “When it was Madhya Pradesh then the Congress had stronghold in Chhattisgarh. Several big leaders were also from the state but after the formation of Chhattisgarh since Ajit Jogi was accused of being a fake tribal the Congress lost its stronghold over the tribals. Though it continued to dominate in some of the areas which helped it in regaining the power.

“As of now, the Congress has started including the tribals with the backward class. First Bhupesh Baghel was the state chief of the party and he was replaced by Mohan Markam as he became the Chief Minister. During the Assembly elections, the Congress talked about the identity of the tribals which helped the party. After winning the elections, the decisions of the Congress government were in favour of the tribals which helped the party in the urban body elections,” said Awasthi.

Also Read- Unity in Diversity is the Strength of the Country: Rahul Gandhi

The Congress is mulling over spreading its message to the tribals across the country through the three-day festival going on here. For this several senior leaders of the party will attend the festival and share the government’s schemes while giving the message that the Congress government in the state has brought a positive and a significant change in the lives of the tribals. (IANS)