Speaker and BJP MP Sumitra Mahajan questions benefit of reservations

Lok Sabha Speaker and BJP MP for Indore Sumitra Mahajan has made a controversial statement in Ranchi, demanding to know if continuing with reservation will bring welfare to the country

IANS Photo
IANS Photo

NH Political Bureau

Lok Sabha Speaker and Bharatiya Janata Party MP for Indore Sumitra Mahajan on Sunday, September 29 demanded to know if continuing with reservation in education and jobs endlessly will bring prosperity to the country.

"The idea of Ambedkarji was to bring social harmony by introducing reservation for 10 years. But what we do is to extend the reservation every 10 years. There is a shortcoming," Mahajan said.

"Will reservation bring welfare to the country?" Mahajan asked. She stressed the need to follow Ambedkar to bring social harmony in the society and country, implying that reservations being extended beyond the first 10 years were the cause of social unrest and against the ideas of Babasaheb Ambedkar, Father of the Indian Constitution who is revered by Dalits. Mahajan was speaking at the concluding day of a three-day event in Ranchi, where Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das was also present.

The Speaker’s comments can be seen in the context of BJP being in a fix due to anger among its core base of upper caste voters, with assembly elections in key states it currently rules—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh—coming up, followed by the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Upper caste groups have been showing their anger to the BJP through protests in Madhya Pradesh and other states against the restoration of the provision for immediate arrest under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, that had been removed by a March 20 Supreme Court verdict.

After vociferous protests by Dalits, Adivasis and Opposition parties against the Supreme Court judgment, the Narendra Modi Government had restored the provisions through an amendment to the Act, which was subsequently passed by Parliament in the Monsoon Session of 2018. Ever since, upper caste groups have been expressing rage against the BJP-led Central Government.

Mahajan’s statements implied that reservations being extended were the cause of social unrest and were against the original idea of Babasaheb Ambedkar

Around 35 upper caste organisations had called for a 'Bharat Bandh' in Madhya Pradesh on September 6 to protest against the SC/ST Act Amendment. Section 144 had to be imposed in the state. Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati had, however, then alleged that the bandh was in fact "a conspiracy of the BJP" and an "event orchestrated by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh".

Upper caste protestors have been shouting slogans against Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and reservations at several places in the state. In some instances, his convoy was even attacked with stones.

Just recently, an upper caste group Swarna Seva showed black flags to BJP Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi, Bihar BJP President Nityanand Rai and MP Manoj Tiwari at different places in Bihar.

BJP leaders, stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, have been trying to walk a delicate tightrope. They have been making mixed noises on the issue of reservations to try and pacify their upper caste base on the issue of SC/ST Act, without angering the Other Backwards Castes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who are far more numerous. However, now invoking Babasaheb Ambedkar to question reservations may have been a step too far.

With IANS inputs

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