Sharad Yadav trashes caste system but plugs for reservations
In the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the Janata Dal (U) leader has come out with his new pet campaign - reservations in the private sector, even as he calls for an abolition of the caste system, reports Manish Chand
New Delhi, June 25
Sharad Yadav, one of the frontrunners of the Mandal revolution, has done yet another volte face - "Banish the caste system but not reservations," he has declared. In a move eyed at the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the Union aviation minister has come out with a new idea - reservation in the private sector. An astute Yadav told tehelka.com, "Elections are round the corner. We have to think of something that will appeal to our supporters."
For the backward caste leader, it's a major image makeover exercise as he whips up the bogey of privatisation to position himself as the only rightful spokesman of the depressed classes.
In a hard-hitting speech in which he demolished the caste system even as he asked for reservation in the private sector, Yadav took on his erstwhile fellow campaigners who, he said, were just playing dalit-minority vote-bank politics without any genuine concern for them. Lashing out at Bihar's colourful former chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and the Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) Mayawati for milching the caste cow, Yadav said they have betrayed the interests of the backward castes and minorities for the lure of power. Clearly, Yadav was trying to please his new-found mentors in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and its principal partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is trying to co-opt backward castes and dalit politicians.
"Privatisation has posed a major threat to job reservation and the NDA is concerned about it. I feel that the NDA will definitely find a way out," Yadav told a day-long Convention of Dalits and Minorities of the Janata Dal (U) in the Capital today.
At the end of the debate, the convention adopted a resolution demanding that the government should ensure 25 per cent reservation for Scheduled Castes and minorities in private sector jobs. Yadav, however, maintained a tactical distance from the party's position. When later contacted, he said, "That is my party's position and not necessarily my own."
He is, however, confident that the ruling NDA alliance, of which his party is a member, will be able to forge a deal to bail out the backward classes and minorities affected by the runaway privatisation and disinvestment policies of its government.
Pitching himself as their saviour, Yadav assured the dalits and minority communities that despite the uncertainty unleashed by privatisation, the NDA alliance is still their best bet.
Even as he spoke passionately about reservations in private sector jobs, Yadav attacked the caste system and caste politics, to which he owes his present position of pre-eminence. Adopting the pose of a man driven by a mission, he said it is time the country rid itself of the caste system - the single most important factor that has kept the backward classes in abject poverty and misery. Stressing that his party did not believe in the caste system, he pointed out that unlike other parties it did not have separate cells for Harijans, dalits and minorities.
He also vehemently attacked the politics of 'minorityism' - an expression he loathed till he joined the NDA because it was a term coined by L K Advani, who was his adversary during the heydays of Mandal politics. Attacking those who had left the "Janata Parivaar" over the years, he said their politics has only harmed the disempowered classes in the name of whom they and their party claimed to speak.
Taking potshots at the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Samajwadi Party, without explicitly naming them, Yadav said those who were born in the "Janata Parivaar" are now too busy promoting dynastic rule. Their original mandate of bettering the lot of the backward classes has been replaced by the culture of money and muscle-power, which these parties have been exploiting to win elections. "The JD(U) is getting less seats as we don't have enough money," a rueful Yadav said.
But for all his disillusionment with his comrades-in-arms and fellow caste leaders, Yadav is convinced that there is no alternative to the NDA. The UP elections, he says, will prove his point where his party plans to contest the elections under the NDA banner and unite farmers, dalits and minorities to ensure its victory.
Even as he gives full vent to his dislike for a one-time comrade-in-arms, Yadav knows not many are going to take his rhetoric against the caste system seriously. His passionate advocacy of the NDA is, however, a double-edged sword, designed to convey to his constituency that even after joining the NDA he is their only true leader whereas others have sold out their interests.