When Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad of having sought a review of caste-based reservation to make room for a religion-based quota, Nitish denied it.
A video clipping from 10 years ago, when Nitish and Lalu were rivals, shows Lalu calling for a quota for Muslims and Nitish challenging him to take it up. Although Modi has accused them of scheming to take away 5% from the quota of Dalits and backwards, the video does not show the two leaders talking about carving the proposed Muslim quota out of any existing quota.
The video is from a function of Muslims in Bihar on July 23, 2005, when Lalu was a Union minister. Wearing a skullcap, he is heard saying: “Bilkul aapko insaaf mile, aapko nyay mile, aapka haq apko mile… isme Lalu Yadav aapke saath kadama kadam… jab Lok Sabha khulta hai, usme bhi Dalit Muslim wala jo prastava gaya hai, usko zor lagake aur usko hum bolenge ki agar Samvidhan mein sansodan laane ki zaroorat hai, provide karne ki zaroorat hai, iska provision karao (You must get justice, get your rights. Lalu will always be with you on this. When the Lok Sabha sits next, we will push all proposals for Muslim Dalits. We will ask for an amendment to the Constitution, if needed).”
The video shows Nitish daring Lalu: “Takatwar logon se kahiye ki sirf zuban na chalaye… sirf zuban na chalaye, apni takat ka isahar jo hukumat mein hai, jinke bal par hukumat hai, use karein (Powerful people mustn’t just give speeches. They should use the powers at their disposal).”
In an intervention in the Lok Sabha on August 24, 2005, Nitish called for including Dalit Muslims among the Schedule Castes.
After Modi had accused him of talking about religion-based reservation, Nitish had tweeted: “Modiji I’m ready to debate the issue of reservation with you anyday. Stop misleading people & your efforts to add communal colour to BiharPolls.”
On November 1, Modi repeated his allegation. He accused the two leaders of going against what the “makers of the Constitution, Rajendrababu, Dr B R Ambedkar, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel had objected to”. He said: “Now when you are caught red handed, you are fuming? And accusing me of communalising?”