NEW DELHI: Reservation is a Constitutional right and nobody can abolish it, BJP ally and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan asserted today, apparently targeting the RSS over controversial comments by its publicity chief on quotas in government jobs and educational institutions.
"Reservation is a Constitutional right and nobody can abolish it. Reservation (for SC/ST) was implemented in the country under the Pune pact between Baba Sahib Ambedkar and Rashtrapita Mahatma Gandhi. This is not a charity granted by someone and it cannot be abolished," Paswan, the most prominent Dalit face in the Narendra Modi government, said in a statement.
He said his party LJP will oppose "tooth and nail" any attempt to alter or change the existing quota system "from Parliament to streets".
Paswan also wondered why RSS leaders made such comments close to elections, saying it was natural for people to get confused by the kind of comments the Sangh spokesperson and its all-India publicity chief Manmohan Vaidya made about reservation recently.
"Last time RSS had made similar comments during the Bihar assembly polls and now it has said so during the Uttar Pradesh polls. What I cannot fathom as to why does it make such comments during elections?
"We had suffered heavily in Bihar due to this. RSS is an independent organisation and I don't know why it gives such statements. It is but natural for people to be confused by such comments," Paswan told PTI.
RSS's publicity chief Manmohan Vaidya had on Friday kicked up a row with remarks favouring a review of the reservation policy, saying even Ambedkar had not favoured its continuance in perpetuity, comments that could be potentially damaging for BJP in elections to five state assemblies.
"Reservations for SC/ST was introduced in a different context. It was provided for in the Constitution to remedy the historical injustice done to them. It was our responsibility.
"So, reservation for them has been there since the inception (of the Constitution). But, even Ambedkar has said its continuance in perpetuity is not good. There should be a time limit to it," Vaidya told an interactive session at Jaipur Literature Festival.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's similar remarks about the need for a review of the reservation policy, just ahead of Bihar polls, had cost the BJP dearly as it saw a massive consolidation of the electorate from the backwards classes and weaker sections in favour of Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance.
In his statement, Paswan said," There is no need to get disturbed by anybody's personal views. The reservation will continue as long as caste system exists in the country."
Social justice and secularism are two main planks of LJP and it will not allow any government to tinker with reservation policy, which is a Constitutional right, Paswan said.
Paswan noted Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made it clear that nobody can touch reservation as long as he was alive and added that he had taken several measures to promote Bhim Rao Ambedkar, a Dalit icon and architect of the Constitution.
The Bihar leader also noted that he played a key role in pushing for quotas. Existing reservation benefits over 85 percent of the population and no government can afford to tinker with it, he said.