Ram Nath Kovind, when he was a BJP spokesperson, had objected to the proposed inclusion of Dalit Christians and Muslims in the Scheduled Caste category at one of his few news conferences. Kovind, the NDA’s nominee for President of India, was speaking at a press conference on March 26, 2010, at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi when he opposed the recommendations of the National Religious and Linguistic Minorities Commission (Ranganath Mishra Commission) to include Dalit Christians and Muslims in the SC list.
According to Kovind, the recommendation would make Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims “eligible to contest elections on reserved seats under backward class reservation.”
Kovind had expressed his reservation against the quota for religious minorities. “If the government accepts the Ranganath Mishra Commission recommendations, the convert Christians and Muslims would become eligible to contest on seats reserved for Scheduled Castes. Thus the people of Scheduled Castes would have to share their reservations in government jobs and political fields with convert Christians and Muslims,” he was quoted as saying in a press note uploaded on the BJP’s official website.
He argued that Christians and Muslims had been getting reservations in government jobs under the backward class categories, so the demand to put them under the SC category was just to make them eligible for contesting elections in reserved seats. “Their special interest is not in getting reservations in government jobs, they want Scheduled Caste category reservation to contest elections from village panchayats to the Lok Sabha. As they know, they cannot be eligible to contest elections on reserved seats under backward class reservation,” he said.
The BJP spokesperson pointed out that the demand to include convert Christians in the SC list was rejected by the British government in 1936.
He went on to say that all senior leaders, including B R Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and C Rajagopalachari had rejected the demand, saying that no religious follower other than a Hindu can be granted any reservation as so-called Scheduled Castes have been suffering from untouchability and social discrimination for centuries. He also pointed out that former President Shankar Dayal Sharma had refused to sign the ordinance in 1996 when Narasimha Rao government wanted to include Dalit Christians and Muslims in the SC category. The National Scheduled Castes and Tribes Commission also had repeatedly rejected it, he added.
Maintaining that the educational level of SC children remained much lower than that of convert Dalit Christians and Muslims, he said: “…the SCs would suffer from all angles in all fields. Moreover, it would further encourage conversion and fatally destroy the fabric of Indian society.”