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'Caste Census No Solution, Bid for Oppn To Get Votes': BJP's Vinay Sahasrabuddhe

On 'Badi Badi Baatein', BJP leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe talks women's reservation & more.

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The Women's Reservation Bill, or the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, turned a page in India's political history. The 33% reservation for women in the Parliament, however, will come into effect only after the census and the eventual delimitation process is conducted.

Many asked, was it imperative to wait? However, that is not the only pressing question being asked.

Several experts and Opposition leaders said that the quota came after compromising seats reserved for SC/STs. The INDIA alliance equivocally demanded that a caste census be conducted to also accommodate the OBC community.

As the demand for a caste-based census gains momentum on the heels of the women's reservation Bill, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe speaks on the need to wait for women's reservation, the complex dynamics of caste census, the OBC vs Maratha quota debate in Maharshtra and more on 'Badi Badi Baatein'.

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Welcome to Quint and Quint Hindi and welcome to our show Badi Badi Baatein!

This term can mean a lot of things. There are people who make tall claims, there are people who achieve big things. There are big developments taking place in the country. In today's political context, how do you see the term 'Badi Badi Baatein!'?

The colloquial meaning of this is to make tall claims and no work. But when you use this term for big achievements, I don't object to that. The big and extensive issues that will influence the society positively should be discussed.

There should be less tall claims and more practical application. 

There were a lot of 'Badi Badi Baatein' that happened in the Special Session and the Monsoon Session of the Parliament recently. The Women's Reservation Bill was a historic move. It's also a very socially significant move for a country like India. But the Opposition had certain pointed demands. What do you think of this specific demand of reservation within reservation?

Firstly, the issues that have a common consensus should be tackled first. For example, when we have a questionnaire in an exam, we take up the difficult questions later and do the easier ones first.

There were attempts made in the past for a common consensus on the Bill but it could not be achieved. Even if the Opposition raised certain issues, they were smart enough to not be adamant about them.

They didn't create obstacles on the issues that had a common consensus.

This is the first stage we are at. There can be more suggestions and improvements. But as much as we have achieved is historic and important. But the leadership of PM Narendra Modi, the BJP government, and the party always had this ideology and we are glad that we were able to implement it on the ground. 

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One of the criticisms that comes from both the political analysts and the Opposition is 'why not now?' Do you think it was absolutely essential to wait for delimitation and census to take place to implement Women's Reservation?

There are a lot of intricacies in this. The experts would be able to explain this better. But as a common party worker, the government had to be calculative about the move so that nobody is able to make an excuse to block it by saying that it should not be done now for any reason.

This is a publicly known fact that the Atal Bihar Vajpayee government had decided to not change the Lok Sabha seats at least till 2025. 2025 is nearby.

Based on the census in 2025, there will be a reassessment of constituencies, new constituent borders will be decided, and then the implementation of the reservation will happen more successfully and legally. Hence, it is natural to wait. But it had to be ensured that nobody would be able to block the bill legally.

Another question that was raised was about the possible compromise in the seats reserved for SC/STs. There was also a demand for a caste census and It was said that those seats shouldn't be touched this reservation should be given separately. Another option was to not touch any reserved seats and give 33% reservation to women separately. How do you see these demands? Do you think the Opposition's demands for OBC reservation are sudden?

The Opposition has always played vote bank politics. They did it when they were in the government too. Hence, I agree when the Prime Minister said that the Opposition is not very happy that we were able to give this reservation.

But the environment and the power of women is such today that they were not able to oppose it. The government has always had a stand of doing right by all communities. Who made a separate commission for OBCs? It was us. Not just OBCs, even the EBCs have benefitted because of this government. Whatever happened was decided considering the constitutional framework and the legal challenges.

Who can guarantee that some elements wouldn't go to the court with some excuse to block it? Hence, it was necessary to safeguard it legally. The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam was passed without compromising the reservation for any community.

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Even when the Women's Reservation Bill was being discussed in the Parliament, the demand for a caste census came up. Many believe that a caste census will not only help to frame social policies for communities but also help with the implementation of women's reservation. From a social perspective and not from a political perspective, do you think a country like India would benefit from a caste census?

See, it requires a more elaborate debate. Our party has taken a view that we should not be supportive of this. If we go just by head count, then the question arises that the southern states controlled population and the northern states did not. So, those whose numbers are higher will get more benefits.

So, was controlling their population a fault of those states? This is in regional context. There can be several such contexts. Hence, this issue is very tedious and does not guarantee the resolution of all problems. Hence, the BJP has taken a stand and the people should try to understand the reasons behind it.

If we look at it socially beyond all the politics, we see that many times a woman is a sarpanch but the husband or any male member of the family are de facto running the show. How much do you think is India socially ready for women's reservation?

If I compare this to the 90s, the local self-governance bodies implemented this reservation. At the time, the society was not ready for it. The organisation that I am associated with - Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini - had conducted a study back then on the women who had become corporators for the first time.

That report said that the reservation at the time was more of a 'state-sponsored feminism' since there was no specific demand or movement for the same. So, it was natural at the time that the husbands or MLAs or sarpanchs were more active. Today, we have moved way forward from there. Even then in the report, the women who were elected to the corporations of Kolhapur, Nashik, Pune and Mumbai said that the first two-three months they took time to understand proceedings. However, six months down the line, the reference point for us were still our husbands or brothers or fathers as first-generation women corporators. Today, we have moved miles ahead from there.

Today, the women who would reach the Parliament won't be as a result of someone's courtesy. They will have their own political relevance. The party has wanted to recognise that for a long time but now it will be done legally too.

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You spoke about Maharashtra. There are several protests going on in the state for reservation. The Marathas are asking for reservation and the state government has assured the same. But, the point of contention is labelling all Marathas as Kunbis and that has upset the OBCs. What way do you see out of this deadlock?

This is a very tedious issue and if the answers were simple, people would have given them by now and moved forward. Devendra Fadnavis took successful initiative to an extent but due to challenges in the Supreme Court, some solutions could not be implemented.

Now, the debate has been reignited and there are several demands and solutions. Nobody is opposing those demands either. But the way to give the reservation while following the SC's orders is what's being discussed. We should wait and watch - what the SC says, what legal scrutiny says. Any sudden solution will only be a hasty decision.

Do you think India has seen a cultural change in the past few years?

Yes, definitely and the shift is positive, the image from that shift is positive. There is a lot left to do. If we speak about women's reservation, it's a long process. It will be successful only when men quit their patriarchal thinking.

Without discriminating between a son and a daughter, the sons need to realise restrictions that get imposed on the daughters of the family. This is just about women's reservation.

But overall, I see a change on the democratic front. Promises to appease, divide and rule - people are tired of these things. Hence, PM Modi and all BJP members always talk about politics of performance. Today, I want to say this humbly but clearly - assess our performance and then vote for us. No party has the guts to say this today.

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We spoke about cultural shift, the women's reservation was historic when it was passed in the Parliament. But it was also marred by an unfortunate event of the comments made by BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri in the Parliament. How did you perceive those comments?

I would reserve my comments because the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is already ceased of the matter and he has handed it over for further probing and action. The issue has gone to a Parliamentary committee so the matter is legal in a way. Hence, it would not be right to comment on it as of now.

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