|A Modi cutout sticks out behind a young supporter
in Varanasi. (AP)
New Delhi, May 8: The Congress today claimed that Narendra Modi was born into an upper caste but granted it the OBC tag as chief minister so he could later milk his supposedly lowly origins for political gain.
Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil waved documents he claimed to have obtained through an RTI application and dubbed Modi a “fake OBC, in the way encounters were fake in Gujarat”.
The Gujarat Congress leader said Modi’s caste of Modh Ghanchi was traditionally deemed an upper caste, and that there had been no demand from anywhere to include it in the OBC category.
Quoting from the Bhagvadgomandal, a Gujarati dictionary-cum-encyclopaedia, he said the “Modh” title was given to castes or communities that became prosperous. For instance, he said, Mahatma Gandhi was a Modh Vanik (Bania).
The “expose” comes at a time Modi has been highlighting his purportedly backward-caste origins and humble beginnings as a “tea seller”. This week, he conveniently construed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s attack on his “neech rajneeti” (low politics) as an “insult to the lower castes”.
Gohil said: “The Ghanchis among the Muslims were in the OBC category but people from Modi’s caste, who used to sell ghee or were in the wholesale business, were always (deemed) upper caste.”
He said that after Modi became chief minister in late 2001, “on January 1, 2002, his government issued a circular declaring that Modh Ghanchis are included in the OBC (list)”.
Asked why he hadn’t revealed the matter earlier, Gohil said he had come to know of it and filed an RTI application “months ago but the state government did not reply” till two days ago.
He furnished what he said was a copy of the circular (No. sshap/1197/1-4/a dated 1/1/2002).
“By acquiring OBC status for his selfish motives, Modi encroached upon the rights of the genuine OBCs, which is a sin,” he said.
Gohil attacked Modi’s “tea seller” claim too. “We have found out that he never sold tea. He went to a canteen owned by a relative for time pass,” he said.
“I was told by a police officer that the licence of that canteen had been cancelled because charas was sold there.”
Asked if he was implying that Modi sold charas and not chai, he said: “I’m not saying that. I was told charas was sold there. But I’m not making that allegation as I have filed an RTI (application) to ascertain facts. Once I get the facts, I will talk about it.”
The Congress is hoping its “expose” will hurt Modi in Varanasi by creating confusion among some voters, and that the OBC parties that dominate heartland politics would use it to attack Modi in the remaining two days of the campaign.
Rahul Gandhi is expected to raise the matter at his Varanasi rally on May 10.
Gohil had an explanation why the matter had not come into the public domain for so long. He accused Modi of discontinuing, as chief minister, the “practice” of marking a copy of every government order for the state leader of the Opposition.
“I was the leader of the Opposition but I got the GR on the Nano car factory (only) after I threatened the chief secretary that I would go to the high court,” he said.
Gohil said that after the government ignored his RTI application on the Modh Ghanchi order, he “filed the first appeal and it was ignored” too.
“I filed the second appeal and finally they gave me the government order the day before yesterday. I did not want to bring this issue into the public domain without documentary evidence.”
He added: “Every caste is equal. But it is certainly a crime to put your own caste in the OBC category and then scream discrimination.”