NEW DELHI: In what appears to be a shift in position, the Congress on Monday said it had “pledged to explore” reservation for the economically weaker sections, but without prejudice to existing quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs.
Making a rather late but formal statement, citing its 2014 election manifesto, Congress media chief Randeep Surjewala said: “The Congress is committed to finding a way forward for introducing reservation in education and employment for economically weaker sections without any way affecting existing reservation for SCs, STs and other backward classes.” Coming in the backdrop of Bihar elections where the party is trying to woo forward castes, who had voted for the BJP in the last many elections, the statement gains significance.
The immediate context is RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s interview to the Organiser, where he called for a relook at the existing reservation provisions by an apolitical committee so that the system of reservation can be made a time-bound policy intervention. Though critical of Bhagwat’s position which it termed “politicisation’’, the Congress clarified there was a need for affirmative action for the economically backward. What is noteworthy, is that the party not-so-long ago had dissociated itself from a letter written by Jitin Prasada — a young generation Congressman from UP who was minister in the Manmohan government — in which he had called for reservation for the economically backward. Prasada, in fact, had asked his party to revisit its stand on the issue. Prior to 2014 polls, both Rahul and Sonia Gandhi had rejected the idea.