The Rashtriya Janata Dal on Monday released its manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls promising introduction of reservations in higher judiciary as well as the private sector besides ensuring that quotas extended to SCs, STs, OBCs and EBCs was made proportionate to their population.
Released by RJD heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav in Patna and titled "pratibaddhata patra" (a letter of commitments), the manifesto was, however, promptly dismissed by Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, who asserted that the document was inconsequential in view of the very few number of Lok Sabha seats being contested by the party.
The manifesto released at the party's state headquarters in the presence of national spokesman and Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha and state unit chief Ram Chandra Purve and Mr Yadav who is also the leader of the opposition in the state assembly made it clear that his party "fully supports" the poll promises of the Congress which is its ally.
The Congress manifesto released last week has been at the centre of a controversy with the BJP-led NDA claiming that promises made therein like review of the sedition law were potentially "dangerous".
Mr Yadav, who is the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad's younger son, said his party was committed to introducing reservations in the private sector and the judiciary besides setting up of a national judicial commission, which would be entrusted with appointment of judges in the higher courts, doing away with the current system of collegium.
Mr Yadav said his party would press for a comprehensive caste-based census in 2020-21 so that fresh figures of population of different social groups SCs, STs, OBCs and EBCs was available and quotas provided to each of these in proportion.
Defending his party's demand for proportionate reservations, implementation of which could require exceeding the 50 per cent cap set by the Supreme Court, Mr Yadav said "the ceiling has already been broken by the Narendra Modi government by introducing 10 per cent quotas for economically weaker sections among the unreserved categories."
The RJD leader said his party would ensure that at least six per cent of the GDP was spent on health care while four per cent was allocated for education, sectors on which the Narendra Modi government has been accused of paying inadequate attention.
Obliquely targeting prohibition introduced in the state by the Nitish Kumar government, he said the RJD once it came to power in Bihar would legalize the sale of toddy and pointed out that his father had abolished taxes on the same when he was in power.
He declined to take queries about the ongoing tussle between him and his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav, saying "today's press conference has been called only for the manifesto."
Meanwhile, Sushil Kumar Modi said the manifesto had "no significance or value" and deserved to be "thrown into the dustbin" since the party was contesting less than 20 Lok Sabha seats and was unlikely to form a government at the Centre.
He also rubbished the promises made by the opposition with regard to quotas and pointed out that while the RJD ruled Bihar, panchayat polls were held without reservations which was rectified only after the NDA came to power in the state.
Statements were also issued by a couple of spokespersons for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) wherein promises made by the RJD were termed as either "misleading" or a "mere copy paste" of the development programmes already being carried out.
While the RJD leads the pack in the "Mahagathbandhan" in Bihar where it is contesting 19 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats, it is also fielding its candidates from two constituencies in the neighbouring Jharkhand.