In Bihar, Grand Alliance Looks Forward, With ‘Reservation’

RSS chief’s pitch a second time, that the quota system needs to be revisited, may hurt BJP’s prospects in Bihar.

2 min read
Mohan Bhagwat (3rd L), chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), walks after addressing the RSS volunteers. ( Photo: Reuters)

“If you can’t make friends, at least don’t make enemies.” This is precisely what Kautilya wrote in ‘Arthshastra’ centuries ago.

But no body from the land of Chankaya and Chandragupta perhaps told this to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. As a result, the Sangh patriarch is at it again, raking up the reservation issue at a time when Bihar will vote for the second phase of the assembly election on October 16.

Vernacular dailies in Bihar are splashed with reports of how the RSS chief reiterated his stand on reservation and argued for a re-look at the quota system prevailing for the last seven decades.

The timing and place, chosen by Bhagwat to rake up the delicate matter, went horribly wrong. He made the remarks at Gorakhpur in UP, not very far from caste-ridden Bihar. And so far as the timing is concerned, the less said the better. It came on the eve of the second phase of polling in 32 constituencies, of which seven seats are reserved for Dalits.

Bhagwat’s Quota Comments

Mohan Bhagwat (R), chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and K S  Sudershan, former RSS sarsanghchalak. (Photo: Reuters)
Mohan Bhagwat (R), chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and K S Sudershan, former RSS sarsanghchalak. (Photo: Reuters)

While the Mahagatbandhan leaders can’t hide their glee over the RSS’s faux pas, Bhagwat has made the BJP strategists scratch their heads as to where was the need for the Sangh Pramukh to do hair-splitting, that too at a time when four out of the five-phase polling are yet to take place.

“We still can’t fathom why he had to say all this, knowing very well how the BJP-led alliance is locked in a close fight with Nitish Kumar’s Grand Alliance (Mahagatbandhan),” said a BJP contestant, refusing to be identified, lest he evokes the RSS’s ire.

We are not surprised at Bhagwat’s remarks. Right from the day the Constitution came into force, the RSS had been opposing reservation on the ground that economic criteria should be the basis for quota.
— Ajay Kumar, IPS officer-turned-Congress leader

His alliance partner Manoj Jha, spokesperson of the of the RJD, too reiterated that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi never outrightly condemned Bhagwat for his first remark on reservation (made last month), this perhaps emboldened the RSS chief to sing the same tune again.

But all this has given the Grand Alliance leaders Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad a stick to beat the BJP with. “I have been saying this from day one that the RSS is the apex court for the BJP. Mark my words, if the BJP comes to power, it will review the reservation policy, notwithstanding Modi’s denial. Lalu mar jayega, lekin aarakshan khatam nahin hone dega. (Lalu will die but won’t allow reservation policy to be scrapped),” says Lalu, striking an emotional chord with a gathering in Rohtas.

No wonder, this emotive issue has left the BJP and its alliance partners scurrying for cover in rural areas.

(The writer is a Bihar-based journalist.)

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