New Delhi: In remarks that could raise eyebrows within Congress, former Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Monday questioned the relevance of reservation in the 21st century and said if it was required at all, the economic condition, and not caste, should be the basis for it.
The Congress leader's comments came a day after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, in an interview to RSS organs 'Organiser' and 'Panchjanya', pitched for a review of the reservation policy, contending it has been used for political ends and suggesting setting up of an apolitical committee to examine who needs such benefits and for how long.
Tewari insisted that he held these views on reservation for long and referred to an articled written by him over a fortnight ago.
"Notwithstanding whatever Bhagwat has articulated, the time has come to revisit the premise as to whether reservation is at all contextual in the 21st century. And if at all it is contextual then should the basis of reservation be economic as poverty is the biggest indice of backwawrdness?" Tewari said.
Tewari, a leader from Punjab, who served as the I&B Minister in the erstwhile UPA government as well as a party spokesperson, insisted that "economic reservation would benefit the poor irrespective of class, caste and religion".
Asked whether he meant that caste-based reservation should be replaced by reservation based on financial position, the Congress leader said, "I am saying that it is first debatable whether we should have reservation. If yes, what should be the basis of it. Whether it should be changed from caste to economy."
Tewari is the second Congress leader to pitch for revisiting the quota issue in the past week. Congress leader Jitin Prasada, a prominent youth face from Uttar Pradesh, wrote a letter to the party leadership, urging it to "revisit Mandal politics".
Prasada was reported to have stated in the letter that the poor suffers "the same fate as the weaker backwards", and held "there seems to be a growing alienation among the upper caste poor who feel that no party represents their concerns and anxieties. Articulating and addressing these concerns will not only be crucial for Congress revival in Uttar Pradesh but would be essential to resurrect the declining legitimacy of the social justice regime."
Congress, for which reservation has been a sensitive subject, evaded giving a direct response on Prasada's letter, downplaying it as "a view of a particular member".