New Delhi: Ahead of elections in five states like Kerala and Bengal, none of which is currently governed by the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today made it clear that his government will not allow any tightening of reserved jobs and college places for Dalits.
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Accusing the opposition of "spreading untruths" that his government is not supportive of the country's most backward communities, the PM said "There will be no dilution of reservation for the Dalits and downtrodden (castes)".
The PM's comments come at a time when his party's ideological parent, the RSS, has said that great caution must be paid to ensure only the truly marginalised benefit from affirmative action policies. Last year, despite the PM's maximal involvement in the campaign for Bihar, the BJP lost the election, with some analysts and party insiders suggesting that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had hurt the party with controversial comments that suggested a re-examination of reservation policies was needed.
The PM's remarks today were made as he pledged a world-class memorial in Delhi for Dr BR Ambedkar, who championed equality for Dalits.
With violent protests, two traditionally affluent and politically powerful communities - the Jats in Haryana and the Patels in Gujarat - are demanding a share of reserved government jobs and places.
The challenge for the BJP, which governs both states, is how to clear new reservation policies without being shot down by the courts, which have repeatedly reiterated that no more than 50 per cent of state jobs and college seats can be set aside to help backward communities.
Over the last few months, the government has been making a determined effort to counter the accusations that it is insensitive to Dalits, a charge levelled by critics and opposition leaders after the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula at his university in Hyderabad in January. Mr Vemula had, before his death, written to university officials with grave allegations of being discriminated against.