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Narendra Modi accused opposition parties of trying to spread untruths that the government was against the reservation policy. Photo: PTI
Narendra Modi accused opposition parties of trying to spread untruths that the government was against the reservation policy. Photo: PTI

No change in reservation policy: Narendra Modi

At Ambedkar memorial lecture, Narendra Modi assures Dalits quotas in jobs and university seats won't go away

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will not change the reservation policy, assuring the Dalits that job and university-seat quotas will stay in place.

Delivering the B.R. Ambedkar national memorial lecture in New Delhi, Modi accused opposition parties of trying to spread untruths that the government was against the quota policy.

“Some people don’t like us, so they are trying to spread lies about the government. People who have not worked for 60 years are trying to build this atmosphere that reservation policy will end," Modi said in an obvious reference to the Congress party.

“There is an attempt to spread lies against the government that there will be a change in the reservation policy," he said, adding that reservation was a right of the Dalits and the marginalized that no one could snatch.

“As I had said earlier also, even if Ambedkar appears today, he cannot snatch this very right of yours. What are we before Baba Saheb?," Modi added in a reference to the Dalit icon, the main architect of the Indian Constitution.

Modi said a similar attempt was made to discredit former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government.

“The government under prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee stayed for two terms, but there was no change in the reservation policy. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has governments in several states—Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat—but there has been no attempt to alter the reservation policy," Modi said.

Modi’s categorical assurance to the Dalits comes ahead of elections in four states—Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal—and the Union territory of Puducherry in April and May.

Next year, elections are due in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, and in Punjab, which is now ruled by the BJP in an alliance with the Akali Dal.

“Some people are spreading lies for political benefits. We cannot make the country strong by dividing the society. We must ensure that there is social harmony and equality in the society, and it should be done without trying to get political benefits," Modi said.

Political parties and their leaders try to appropriate the legacy of Ambedkar to gain an electoral advantage by winning over the Dalits, said a political analyst, who noted that the BJP’s ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the RSS, has called for a review of the reservation policy.

“Political parties want Dalit votes; so they are trying to appropriate the legacy of B.R. Ambedkar. The RSS has asked for a review of reservation policy; so, the BJP should clarity whether Modi is correct or the RSS is right. The BJP is talking about the Dalits because of assembly elections," said Ramesh Dixit, a Lucknow-based political analyst and a former professor of political science at Lucknow University.

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