(This article was written on January 13, 2017 to caution the BJP agaiinst unnecessary controversies being created by some RSS leaders. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's uncalled for advice for debate on reservation in government jobs just before Assembly elections in Bihar in 2015 had proved very costly. Fortunately, timely action by the responsible sections in RSS and BJP controlled the damage in Uttar Pradesh. According to the available information, RSS actively worked for BJP in Uttar Pradesh. March 12, 2017.)
Does the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) want Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fade away and take sanyas from politics in 2019? The uncalled for suggestions and remarks by some top members of the RSS seem to suggest so. I am sure, I am not the only one who feels so. (Let me clarify. I am a supporter of Narendra Modi, not because he is from the BJP but because in my opinion he is the first Prime Minister of India whose only concern is India.)
Whether my inference about the RSS’ intention is right or wrong, I would request the members and sympathisers of the RSS as well as the BJP to read carefully this article and seriously consider the suggestions given at the end.
In an article written on October 19, 2015 I had raised a question: ‘who should be held responsible if the BJP loses in Bihar?’ On the top of my list was the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who chose the worst time to suggest review of the constitutional provisions for reservation in government jobs and gave Laloo Prasad Yadav & Co a God-sent opportunity to paint BJP as anti-OBC and ant-Dalit. Prime Minister Modi’s high-pitched assurance that he would sacrifice his life for the sake of reservation could not undo the damage Mohan Bhagwat had done, though it is difficult to quantify the damage.
Now just before election in Uttar Pradesh, RSS publicity chief Manmohan Vaidya has played the role of Mohan Bhagwat. He chose the platform provided by the Jaipur Literature Festival to reiterate what he has said more than once earlier that the constitutional provision for reservation being a temporary measure to remedy the historical injustice “there should be a time limit to it.” He justified his stand by reminding that even Dr Ambedkar had said that its continuance in perpetuity was not good.
Today, supporters of reservation do not want to remember Dr Ambedkar’s suggestion; they are shouting from the rooftop to remind voters that the BJP and its parent organisation, RSS, have always been against OBCs and Dalits. Subsequent to Vaidya’s words of wisdom, categorical statement by Dattatreya Hosabale, RSS Joint General Secretary, that "as long as there is discrimination on the basis of birth, gender or any other social factor, the reservation as provided by the Constitution shall continue and RSS fully supports it" has not and will not silence the opposition parties. One brief suggestion by Vaidya has given Mayawati, Laloo and others a powerful weapon to incite people to dump the BJP. They have already declared their intention.
People like Mohan Bhagwat and Manmohan Vaidya are factually correct that reservation was introduced as a purely temporary measure but are they so naive that they do not realise that a strong vested interest has developed in reservation and that there are no takers of their views? The constitutional provision cannot be discussed merely because they are saying so. In fact, even by giving a casual suggestion, they are helping BJP’s opponents. Victory or defeat of the BJP in UP election may change the course of Indian politics. While victory will strengthen the position of Prime Minister Modi and encourage him to take bold steps for the country’s progress, defeat will considerably weaken his hold over his party and in Indian politics, so much so that his victory in 2019 general election may become difficult. Already, Modi is facing several challenges. Vaidya has added to his woes.
If, thanks to his friends, Modi loses his acceptability in 2019, we should be ready to accept anybody as Prime Minister. There is a long list of those waiting for that opportunity: Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar, Akhilesh Yadav and last but not least, Rabri Devi. Please don’t laugh at the possibility of Rabri Devi becoming Prime Minister. If Laloo, who is not eligible due to conviction (which is not preventing him from playing an active role in politics), becomes kingmaker, he may nominate anybody from his family, wife Rabri Devi or one of the sons. If Rabri Devi could become Chief Minister of Bihar when her husband Laloo was in jail, why can she not become Prime Minister of India when her husband is not eligible? Anything is possible in a coalition government. Did anybody ever imagine that a light-weight Inder Kumar Gujral would become Prime Minister of India? A weak Narendra Modi will brighten the prospects of many. Maybe, a completely dark horse like Gujral, or Deve Gowda is the next occupant of 7, Lok Kalyan Marg. In a lighter vein, my personal choice is Navjot Singh Siddhu. He will guarantee 'Achhe Din' (Happy Days) as well as 'Achhi Raten' (Good Nights), the latter at Kapil Sharma shows.
The question Mohan Bhagwat and Manmohan Vaidya have been raising should have been raised right after the Constitution came into force in 1950, because the time limit – 10 years – for rethinking was very short. The guilty party is the Congress which ruled over India, uninterrupted for three decades after independence, and claims to be the biggest champion of the cause of Dalits and other underprivileged citizens, a claim that Mayawati regularly challenges to preserve her vote bank. The Congress never attached due importance to education, what to talk of special importance to education for the deprived people. First Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who had not studied in India had no idea of the miserable economic conditions of primary school teachers on whose frail shoulders lie the responsibility of laying the foundation of a strong India. Once, when a delegation of primary school teachers told him that they were worse paid than government orderlies, Nehru did not even offer to look into their grievances. His first education Minister, Maulana Azad, born outside India, had not been to any school. The Nehru Government never bothered for a minute that the provision regarding reservation made in the Constitution to which the contemporary leaders were party was only a temporary provision and very little time was available to achieve the objective behind a temporary measure. Their failure, not just in the early years after independence, but subsequently also to provide quality education to all is responsible for the present situation when even a casual mention of need to review invites loud protests.
It is not that Nehru was not aware of the dangers of caste-based reservations. In the 1950s, when some backward caste leaders lobbied to extend job reservation to backward crops and 1950s, he had remarked, “I am grieved to learn how far this business of reservation has gone based on communal or caste considerations. This way lies not only folly, but disaster." Perhaps, he considered that his expression of being ‘grieved’ was all that he was required to do. He just did not bother beyond expressing some emotional words.
After decades of reservation it is no longer just a temporary constitutional provision. It has become part of our culture and ethos. A strong vested interest has developed in maintaining the status quo. Social and economic backwardness of the vast majority of the people has provided very fertile ground for emergence of all sorts of caste leaders. There would have been no Laloo Yadav or Mayawati, or even Hardik Patel, had availability of quality education benefited all. Today, such leaders are not interested in providing quality education to the OBCs and Dalits. Their leadership depends on the deprived people remaining deprived. They are very much like those orthodox Mullahs who would not like Muslim children to be exposed to modern education.
Since there are more privileges and concessions in being underprivileged, there is no demand to go up in the caste hierarchy. On the contrary, there is a tough competition to slide. Many of those traditionally treated as members of the upper caste want to join the rank of OBCs. Many of those not satisfied with the privileges they are entitled to as OBCs want to be categorised as Dalits and many Dalits would like to be called Mahadalits. Perhaps, nowhere in the world we can find a parallel.
What has become part of our culture and an accepted privilege of the underprivileged, cannot be undone by academic discussions. No democratic government will be able to do anything for a very long time, particularly because quality education is available only to a small percentage of the population. In a democratic setup fundamental changes are possible only through high level of enlightenment which only education may provide. The alternative, dictatorship, may turn out to be a remedy worse than the disease. The way Central Government yielded to popular pressure on the Jallikattu issue is an example of force of culture and tradition. Good education and economic prosperity are only effective remedies to cancers of caste-system and other prejudices.
Now the million dollar question is, can anything be done to salvage the situation during elections in UP and elsewhere? In my opinion, only the RSS which has caused the damage can do something. The organisation has a large number of swayamsevaks (volunteers) many of whom are well educated. They should go to the OBCs and Dalits and convince them that they would provide free coaching to prepare them for examinations in schools and colleges and for competitive examinations for government jobs. This is one area where thriving NGOs have not done anything. Coaching classes run by competent and committed persons can do wonders. ‘Super 30’ in Patna is the best example. True, it is not possible to have hundreds of ‘Super 30s’ but even reasonably good coaching will go a long way in improving the lot of underprivileged boys and girls. RSS volunteers should start the mission right now by helping students prepare for the final school examination to be held just after the elections are over.
One word of caution. While coaching students they should concentrate on the syllabus otherwise they may invite criticism that they are propagating Hindutva and their efforts may be counter-productive.
RSS and BJP should convince the underprivileged that they do care for them, not just by words but by concrete actions.
January 23, 2017