Bhagwat's remark in 2015, coming right before the Bihar polls, had cost BJP the elections. This time too, the statement comes ahead of polls in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, dates for which are expected to be announced soon
On August 18, Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), called for a discussion on the contentious issue of reservation.
Bhagwat had said there should be a conversation in "harmonious atmosphere" between those in favour of reservation and those against it, and that while he had spoken about the issue earlier as well, the discussion had "diverted" from the actual issue.
As in the time when Bhagwat had spoken about the issue earlier— in 2015, just before the Bihar elections— this time, too, the Opposition has smelt an opportunity and pounced upon it by targeting the RSS and Bhagwat, and by extension the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"Attack on the rights of the poor, trampling on constitutional rights, snatching the rights of Dalits-backwards. This is the real BJP agenda," Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, meanwhile, asked the RSS to "reannounce" its "anti-reservation mentality".
"The RSS saying that there should be an open-hearted debate on the issue of reservations of SC/ST and OBC creates a deadly situation of suspicion, which is not necessary," Mayawati said in a tweet.
RSS, on its part, has come out with a clarification, stating that the Sangh supports reservation and that attempts were being made to "create an unnecessary controversy" over parts of Bhagwat's speech.
Going by past experience, the RSS and the BJP have reasons to be wary. The 2015 uproar, coming right before the Bihar polls, had cost BJP the elections. This time, too, the statement comes ahead of the polls in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, the dates for which are expected to be announced soon.
In 2015, after Bhagwat's comments during an interview stating that he supported reservation in principle but asked for its review, the Opposition particularly in Bihar had centred its entire campaign around it.
While most experts and leaders, including those from BJP, admit that the comments damaged the National Democratic Alliance's prospects in Bihar, it is difficult to gauge whether the same could be said of the forthcoming Assembly polls.
"The political landscape in Bihar was different, and the political landscape of Maharashtra is different," a BJP leader from the state told Moneycontrol, stating that Bhagwat's comments were being blown out of proportion.
"They (the Opposition) are obviously trying a repeat of 2015, but they don't understand that politics doesn't work the same way everywhere, every time," the leader added.
Maharashtra currently has more than 50 percent reservation, after the government granted quota for the Marathas recently. Congress leaders in the state also admit that Bhagwat's comments might not have a lot of effect during the polls, at least in Maharashtra, where the grand old party is planning to target the government on the recent floods.
In Jharkhand, the BJP government implemented the 10 percent reservation to economically weaker section of upper caste in January. This was in addition to the 50 percent reservation that already existed. In Haryana too, reservation exceeds the 50 percent mark.Much like 2015, BJP leaders have come out to clarify that reservation is here to stay. But, experts have stated, the party will be careful, particularly in states like Jharkhand and Haryana, where caste plays a vital role in the politics of the state. After all, the party wouldn't want its fate 'sealed' due to a statement, as Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav had termed it during the 2015 Bihar elections.Are you happy with your current monthly income? Do you know you can double it without working extra hours or asking for a raise? Rahul Shah, one of the India's leading expert on wealth building, has created a strategy which makes it possible... in just a short few years. You can know his secrets in his FREE video series airing between 12th to 17th December. You can reserve your free seat here.