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Congress Plans Offensive against the BJP on Caste Census

Congress Plans Offensive against the BJP on Caste Census

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 1: In a bid to counter the BJP’s campaign to paint the Congress “anti-OBC” taking recourse to Rahul Gandhi’s comments on “Modi surname,” the Congress is learnt to be planning to mount an offensive against the ruling party for its “failure” to conduct caste census.

The Congress is currently learnt to be in talks with a few other “like-minded” parties including the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Janata Dal (United), the Samajwadi Party and some others for a joint offensive against the BJP on the issue. Later the ambit of the talks would be expanded to include other opposition parties. The Bihar government of the JD(U) and the RJD has already sought the Centre’s clearance after state Assembly passed a resolution favouring for conducting caste-based census.

The BJP intensified its campaign to paint the Congress anti-OBC to offset polarisation of the opposition parties on the issue of jail sentence to the former Congress president Rahul Gandhi leading to his disqualification as a member of the Lok Sabha for his remarks on Modi surname. His comment “why thieves have the common Modi surname” during the 2019 Parliamentary election campaign in Karnataka was projected as an insult to the entire OBC community which form a very sizeable chunk of the Indian voters.

Since Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha on March 26, a day after he was convicted in the “Modi surname” case by the Surat sessions court, the BJP has fielded its rank and file to attack Gandhi, including announcing a nationwide movement from April 6th to April 14 by its OBC Morcha to expose Congress’s alleged “anti-OBC” face.

The Congress, especially Gandhi, who is reluctant to engage on the caste question, insists that the BJP’s narrative against them was “artificial”. The party General Secretary K C Venugopal said, “It is absolutely ludicrous for a political party that cannot conduct caste census despite persistent demand to claim love for OBCs. Of the three Congress Chief Ministers, two are from the OBC community (Rajasthan- Ashok Gehlot & Chhattisgarh- Bhupesh Baghel). Our campaign in Karnataka is led by Siddaramiah, a stalwart from the OBC community. So, we don’t really need to be lectured by anyone.”

Party’s national coordinator for SC, ST, OBC and minorities Department K Raju though refusing to comment on whether the party should have shown alacrity in countering the BJP on the OBC question, produces a long list of pro-OBC credentials. Starting from 1977, Mr. Raju said it was Congress government under ND Tiwari in Uttar Pradesh that introduced reservation for OBC among other seven states. “VP Singh government that adopted the Mandal Commission report in August 1990, collapsed soon after and it fell upon the Congress led PV Narsimha Rao government to actually implement the reservation. In 2012 Congress minister Arjun Singh introduced OBC reservation in higher education institutions- this was Mandal 2.0,” he said.

On the other hand, he said, BJP’s record on pro-OBC policies has been dismal. “They have failed to accede to demand to have a ministry for OBC welfare. As on date, none of the secretary-level officers in the government are from the OBC community. OBC candidate’s entry in central government jobs has also been largely restricted in the last eight-years. As of now out of 32.5 lakh government employees only seven lakhs are OBCs and out of this 6.4 lakh are in group C. This shows their sincerity,” he added. He also underlined that the party will go to the people. “We have cold facts unlike the BJP’s rhetoric.”

But within the party, many OBC leaders feel that the party has been far too slow to rebut the BJP. The Bharat Jodo Yatra, too, was a failed opportunity, since Gandhi, who was leading the march, spoke about the larger questions of “harmony” and “democracy”, without any direct reference to the question of caste. The Congress, they feel, failed to bat on offensive even after the party in its recent plenary at Raipur passed resolution demanding caste-census. Is it too late and too little, many within the party feel.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu son after coming out of the jail on Saturday after a 10-month stint, mounted an attack on the Modi government stating “Democracy is in chains.” Sidhu was imprisoned in a road rage case that killed a 65-year man 34 years ago.

“Punjab is the shield of this country. When dictatorship came in this country, a revolution also came, led by Rahul Gandhi,” Sidhu said addressing his well-wishers who had gathered outside the Patiala jail when he was released at the completion of his sentence. .

Sidhu alleged the centre wanted to impose President’s rule in Punjab where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a bitter rival of the BJP, is in power. His comments come amid the search for radical Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh, whose private militia has been accused of trying to create trouble in Punjab and disturb law and order.

“There is a conspiracy to impose President’s rule in Punjab. They are trying to weaken Punjab. I stand like a wall with Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and every Congress worker,” Sidhu said.

The Supreme Court in May last year ordered one-year “rigorous imprisonment” to Sidhu, who had by then quit as Punjab Congress chief after his party’s defeat in the state election. The court judgment came on a request by the family of the man who died after a fight with Sidhu and his friend in 1988. The family had asked for a review of a 2018 order from the Supreme Court acquitting him of murder.




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