Timing of Bhagwat’s quota row is curious

The issue is not the appropriateness of caste-based reservation

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s views on reviewing caste-based reservations, expressed in a recent interview in Organiser, jolted the BJP when the party is in the midst of preparing for the Bihar Assembly election, barely three weeks away.

The RSS thinking on the caste system is not hidden. The Hindu supremacists are for its preservation, not gradual destruction. The belief system of the Hindutva headquarters privileges the Brahmin and other upper castes (the “savarna”), although for political reasons its affiliates, including the BJP, are obliged to pay lip service to caste-based reservations as a means of social and economic progress, getting worked up only when there are demands for reservations for the SC and OBC Muslims and Christians.

But the cat is out. The RSS is actually against reservations even for deprived Hindus. When Mr Bhagwat drew a sharp response from Bihar’s OBC leaders, particularly RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, for tactical reasons the BJP had to distance itself from the evidently pro-upper caste utterances of the RSS chief. Indeed, the RSS itself made appropriate noises.

The issue here is not the appropriateness or otherwise of caste-based reservations, to judge which Mr Bhagwat has sought a non-political experts’ body in order to open up the debate. The real question here is why the RSS supremo chose to intervene in a highly sensitive political matter just before an important election on which the PM is counting badly.

Questions are bound to be asked. Does the RSS want the BJP to lose or do badly? Unlikely. The BJP, after all, is the RSS’ political front and RSS cadres typically go all out to help the saffron party in elections.

Does Mr Bhagwat then want Narendra Modi brought down a peg or two so that he may carry on kow-towing to the RSS leadership even though he is PM and enjoys immense constitutional authority?

This is more probable, although only recently, in a much-publicised event, Mr Bhagwat and other RSS bigwigs awarded the Modi government satisfactory grades. Nevertheless, the RSS is said to have long felt — even when Mr Modi was CM in Gujarat — that he likes untrammelled power and needed to be held in check.

A less than satisfactory result in Bihar is likely to achieve that end, although it may be less likely to change Mr Modi’s traits. From the RSS’ perspective, there has always been the real worry (including when Atal Behari Vajpayee was PM) that the BJP leaders it spawns might get too big for their boots once they acquire constitutional authority, even if their RSS ideology remains unwavering.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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