Mumbai.9thJan. With the Modi govt announcing 10% quota for the general category everyone in the BJP, RSS estimates that this announcement will create a favorable outcome for the saffron party in 2019. This comes despite the fact that the RSS has been the most vocal opponent of caste based discrimination in India. Present RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat had in a run up to the Bihar assembly elections in 2016 stated that the reservation /quota should be done away with. Much as the BJP may defend reservations/ quotas the thinking in the RSS is that since the reservations are caste based poor Brahmins cannot benefit from these measures. Hindu nationalists way back in 1920 had opposed the organising of the Dalits especially in Maharashtra- which is the crucible of the RSS- under BR Ambedkar. They wrote that ‘reservations would create vested interests and come in the way of creating a Hindu Rashtra . If caste identities strengthen due to reservation then it will come in the way of creating Hindu Rashtra. The Hindu nation has to be a harmonious collaboration of all castes in Indian society and vested caste interests come in the way of such a creation’.
In line with this thinking the RSS had criticized VP Singh’s announcement on 7 August 1990 of the implementation of the Mandal Commission .The Organiser magazine, mouthpiece of the RSS, attacked the decision by writing that Mandal was pampering the votebanks , but also the whole policy of positive discrimination from an organist angle. ” The havoc the politics of reservation is playing with the social fabric is unimaginable. It provides a premium for mediocrity, encourages brain drain and sharpens caste divide”. In 1994 The Organiser had published, then RSS Chief Rajendra Singh’s view that ‘there should be gradual reduction in the job quota even for the Schedules Castes’.
Given this ambivalence and objection to the new social equilibrium that Mandal will create the BJP in its 1996 election manifesto keeping the electoral realities in mind stated that ‘it will continue the reservation system for the OBCs till they are socially and educationally integrated with the rest of the society but it also announced a 10% reservation on the basis of economic criteria to all economically weaker sections of the society apart from SC, ST and OBCs’. This is for the first time the BJP tried to combine the criterion of caste with socio economic criteria.
However historically it has been seen that reservation schemes announced at the eve of general or state elections have yielded no electoral benefits. VP Singh despite announcing Mandal and Karpoori Thakur failed to get anticipated support from the masses that they intended to. Today the announcement of 10% quota will do is that it will create a feeling of ‘there is something for me that political class has done which as yet had only been pro Backward class ‘. By carving this quota the BJP is trying to bring all castes in the society in harmony as it said that every citizen of the society will be covered under ‘some quota or the other’. By doing this the BJP will want to mitigate the deep divisions in the society that were created by implementation of the Mandal Commission say Right wing thinkers . The basic tenet that the Modi Govt will be arguing this new quota when it stands the judicial scrutiny is -the Right to equality of status and the right to equal opportunity.
Politically there are going to be very interesting implications – the backwards are already asking for 5% increase in its quota, can the BJP accede to this demand ? This move will also consolidate the SC ST OBCs to the regional parties that represent their interests. Regional parties like SP- BSP, RLD are likely to get strengthened as the floating backward vote that had warmed upto the BJP in face of Ram Temple will now move back to them. If Modi govt shows its inability to address the 5% extra quota it will send the message that the BJP is certainly not with them. Second, can this quota accommodate the demand of large section in the miniscule 10% ? The Jats, Maratha, Kapu and Patels besides poor Brahmin, Thakurs also Muslims and Christians will all of them in some way get benefit ? How will it work on the ground will it be cornered by one caste like say the Brahmins leaving the others marginalised (like the Yadavs cornering the Backward quota) ? These doubts will start plaguing the mind of the electorate sooner than the ballot is cast which is still three months away. Above all this is the actual situation on the ground of job opportunities – given the tight finances and hiccups in growth can govt still be a job provider ? Given its intention of divesting its share in PSUs to garner more income for social sector splurging where are the jobs in govt going to be created in the future ? A look at the recent Railway recruitment shows that only after 5 years that there is an employment opportunity in the govt. The rush to be employed at the lower level in a govt job is very much there but are the opportunities being created at the same pace? This is going to be the moot point that every voter will think about when the practical aspect of such quotas is being discussed in every household. Modi govt has tried to create harmony but it has yet to diffuse the tensions that lack of opportunity is creating in the Indian society. This move will create a shriller pitch to the ‘2 cr jobs per year promise’ that gets asked of Modi frequently. The answer to this is what will determine the fate of BJP in Summer of 2019.