Jaipur: Opportunities, not reservation, is what's needed, said a top leader of the BJP's ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or RSS today, which is likely to cause the party some burn, given that key states including Uttar Pradesh vote in the next few weeks. Manmohan Vaidya, a top ideologue of the RSS, said at the Jaipur Literature Festival today that reservation protects those who were "given a raw deal socially" but in time, "everyone should get equal opportunity" and till that happens, "a feeling of disparity or alienation" is a risk.
His comments were followed by that of the organisation's Dattatreya Hosabale, who stressed that "caste-based reservation is a necessity for some more time and reservation shall continue."
In 2015, comments by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, calling for a review of existing reservation policies, were estimated to have hurt the BJP ahead of the election in Bihar, which it lost. Like then, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is the face of his party's campaign in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP is up against the incumbent Samajwadi Party of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, Dalit icon who heads the Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP and has served as Chief Minister four times. In the general election, the BJP swept the state, winning 72 of a possible 80 seats.
Mayawati said the statement re-examining reservation "is highly condemnable." Lalu Yadav, among the coalition leaders who defeated the BJP in Bihar, said the new remarks on reservation would deliver another drubbing in Uttar Pradesh.
Later, both RSS leaders in Jaipur clarified, "As long as there is discrimination, reservation as provided by the constitution should continue and the RSS supports it."
The Jats of Western Uttar Pradesh, who form 17 per cent of the population in the region, have said that they will withdraw the support they extended to the BJP in the general election because the party has not added them to the caste-based groups eligible for reserved government jobs and seats in educational institutions.
In Gujarat, which has been governed by the BJP for over a decade, the powerful Patels say they must also be guaranteed a share of caste-based quotas for jobs and colleges. The Patels, originally a wealthy land-owning community that expanded into diamond trading and textiles, say that reservation policies, meant to benefit lower castes and tribal communities, have deprived them of the opportunities allowed by affirmative action to lower castes.