Bihar polls: PM Modi targets ‘grand alliance’ over caste quota
Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Bihar‘s grand alliance on Monday of trying to shave a chunk off caste quotas in favour of a “religious community”, attempting to wrest the pro-reservation tag from opponents ahead of a crucial third phase of polling.india Updated: Oct 26, 2015 19:12 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Bihar‘s grand alliance on Monday of trying to shave a chunk off caste quotas in favour of a “religious community”, attempting to wrest the pro-reservation tag from opponents ahead of a crucial third phase of polling.
Modi aggressively wooed the numerically-dominant lower caste vote – other backward classes, scheduled castes and extremely backward classes – ahead of Wednesday’s polling in 50 seats, widely considered to be NDA strongholds.
“Leaders of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United) and Congress are conspiring to snatch away 5% of SC, ST and OBC reservation and give it to a religious community. But this son of a poor EBC tea-seller will put his life on the line to protect your job quota in its entirety,” Modi said at an election rally at Buxar.
The BJP has tried hard to shed the perception of being against caste-based reservations after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat called for a review of the quota system, potentially alienating millions of people whose support is pivotal to the saffron coalition in a fiercely-contested election.
Modi’ statement was also seen as an attempt to undercut the appeal of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who has projected himself as the protector of the reservation system, offering to “lay down his life’ to defend job quotas from the “predatory” RSS.
The PM said the Constitution clearly laid down that job reservation could not be provided on the basis of religion. Thereafter, the Supreme Court capped reservation at 50%.
“So, here they are (the grand alliance leaders) scripting a ‘paap ki yojana’ (an unholy scheme) to deprive you of your job quota in pursuit of vote bank politics”, Modi said -- an unmentioned reference to the demand for a Muslim job quota in some states.
The PM’s comments came a day after he voiced his commitment to the country’s reservation policy and said rejected the grand alliance charge that the BJP would do away with quotas.
Both the NDA and the grand alliance are in a neck-and-neck fight for the state’s 243 assembly seats with the BJP banking on Modi and the so-called development agenda, against the Lalu-Nitish combine. The grand alliance has repeatedly tried to paint the BJP as pro-upper caste to sway the strong lower caste vote away from the saffron coalition in a state known to vote along caste lines.
During the rally, Modi also recalled how RJD and JD (U) leaders ‘blocked’ the passage of 35% job quota for women in Parliament and reiterated his promise to facilitate bijli-pani-sadak (power-water-roads) for Bihar and padhai-kamai-dawai (education-jobs-medicines) for Bihar’s youth and poor.
The PM wondered why funds released for the Centre’s flagship rural employment scheme – the MNREGA -- weren’t used to de-silt and renovate the canal system in the grain-growing Shahabad region.
“Isn’t it ironic that farmers of this ‘granary of Bihar’ now have to send their children outside the state in search of jobs?” he asked.
At Siwan, in north Bihar, Modi predicated a “thumping NDA win” would spell curtains for “15 years of jungle raj” (a reference to Lalu’s direct, indirect rule from 1990-2005) and “10 years of ahankar raj” (a reference to Nitish Kumar’s alleged arrogance).