Saturday 10 October 2015

Questions on relevance of reservation

First RSS sarsangh chalak Mohan Bhagwat, now Manish Tewari: Cong leader questions relevance of reservation In remarks that could raise eyebrows within Congress, former Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Monday questioned the relevance of reservation in the 21st century and said if it was required at all, the economic condition, and not caste, should be the basis for it.

 The Congress leader's comments came a day after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, in an interview to RSS organs 'Organiser' and 'Panchjanya', pitched for a review of the reservation policy, contending it has been used for political ends and suggesting setting up of an apolitical committee to examine who needs such benefits and for how long.

Tewari insisted that he held these views on reservation for long and referred to an articled written by him over a fortnight ago.

"Notwithstanding whatever Bhagwat has articulated, the time has come to revisit the premise as to whether reservation is at all contextual in the 21st century. And if at all it is contextual, then should the basis of reservation be economic as poverty is the biggest indice of backwawrdness?" Tewari said.

Tewari, a leader from Punjab, who served as the I&B Minister in the erstwhile UPA government as well as a party spokesperson, insisted that "economic reservation would benefit the poor irrespective of class, caste and religion".

Asked whether he meant that caste-based reservation should be replaced by reservation based on financial position, the Congress leader said, "I am saying that it is first debatable whether we should have reservation. If yes, what should be the basis of it. Whether it should be changed from caste to economy."

Tewari is the second Congress leader to pitch for revisiting the quota issue in the past week. Congress leader Jitin Prasada, a prominent youth face from Uttar Pradesh, wrote a letter to the party leadership, urging it to "revisit Mandal politics".

Prasada was reported to have stated in the letter that the poor suffers "the same fate as the weaker backwards", and held "there seems to be a growing alienation among the upper caste poor who feel that no party represents their concerns and anxieties. Articulating and addressing these concerns will not only be crucial for Congress revival in Uttar Pradesh but would be essential to resurrect the declining legitimacy of the social justice regime."

Congress, for which reservation has been a sensitive subject, evaded giving a direct response on Prasada's letter, downplaying it as "a view of a particular member".

Earlier, Congress had distanced itself from AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi's views against caste-based reservation.

Dwivedi called for an end to reservation on caste lines and urged party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to introduce quota for financially weaker sections bringing all communities under its ambit. He later clarified that he had not asked for an end to caste-based quota but sought to remove those who did not need it so that it reached the real poor.

When Dwivedi had made the remarks in February last year, months before the Lok Sabha polls, Congress president Sonia Gandhi herself had written a strongly-worded letter denouncing Dwivedi's views.

While Congress had described his statement on the issue of caste-based reservation or absence thereof is his personal opinion, SP and BSP had strongly opposed it in Parliament.

In a damage control mode with the Lok Sabha elections just round the corner, Sonia had asserted there should be "no doubt or ambiguity" over the party's stand on caste-based quota.

Recent remarks of Congress leaders on the issue have once again brought to fore the churning within a section of the party, which feels that overemphasis on reservation politics has damaged its prospect. The section says that before the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, the party-led government's decision to provide reservation to Jats and Marathas did not help Congress in either Haryana or Maharashtra.

Strongly pitching for reservation based on economic condition, Tewari recently said in a newspaper article "poverty never discriminates; it chooses its victims from all religions, castes and creeds. The pavement-dwellers and the slum-dwellers, belonging to different castes and religions, have a common thread of poverty around them. Are they not the backward classes envisaged under Article 16(4)?"

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