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Cong caste sneeze gives BJP a cold

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By RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
  • Published 1.06.10
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New Delhi, May 31: Junior home minister Ajay Maken’s letter to young MPs asking them to oppose a caste-based census has not found many takers in his party but in Opposition BJP.

BJP national secretary Vani Tripathi said urban youths would not be able to relate to caste enumeration. “If, for instance, a young person in Delhi is asked about his caste, he will be clueless,” she said. “But the question might sow seeds of doubt and discomfort in his mind. What’s the point in reconditioning a young person’s mind on caste?”

Another young BJP leader, who did not want to be named, said: “Maken is right because the exercise might trigger another civil war. If the number of Dalits counted increases, are we going to increase their reservation quotas?”

Veteran leader M.M. Joshi said he was against a caste-based census because the idea was “regressive and divisive”, but clarified that this was his personal view. He also wondered why the Opposition leaders in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, favoured a caste census when the matter had not been debated within the BJP.

The RSS has criticised the call for a caste census in an editorial in its mouthpiece Organiser, while on Sunday, Sangh ideologue and former spokesperson M.G. Vaidya questioned the BJP’s support in his weekly column in the Marathi daily Tarun Bharat.

Vaidya’s piece, read in tandem with the RSS editorial, is expected to pressure the BJP to dilute, if not revise, its position.

However, OBC leader and party vice-president Vinay Katiyar said: “When people are questioned about their incomes and their material possessions, … why not caste?”

“Conclusive data on the number of OBCs, Dalits and tribals can better help any government target its affirmative action schemes for their real beneficiaries. Right now, everyone’s shooting in the dark,” the Rajya Sabha MP added.

In his May 27 letter, Maken had argued that any move to include caste in the ongoing census would be “disastrous”, particularly for young politicians who have a long future. He said “young, conscience-driven individuals” like him had thrived politically on the all-inclusive development agenda.

However, several young Congress MPs said the minister should focus on anti-Naxalite operations instead of “tilting at the caste windmill”.

The party’s media department chairperson Janaradan Dwivedi said: “It must be his personal view. But those holding responsible positions in the party and the government should not air their views in public.”