First backward PM? But Dal did it in 1996

Reunited Janata parivar lobs caste card barb at BJP, reminds all that Modi became OBC only in 2000

By Amit Bhelari
  • Published 12.07.15
HD Deve Gowda

Patna, July 11: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today joined the call for making the caste census report public and ridiculed Amit Shah for saying the BJP gave India its first Prime Minister from a backward community.

Addressing the newly constituted OBC wing of the BJP in New Delhi yesterday, BJP national president Shah had said their party had produced the most OBC MLAs and MPs and chief ministers besides the first Prime Minister from the community.

Attacking Shah, Nitish set the record straight, saying: "H.D. Deve Gowda was the first OBC Prime Minister, not the one claimed by the BJP. It is very easy to claim they have done a lot of things for OBCs but doing it in reality is a different thing."

RJD president Lalu Prasad attacked Shah on Twitter. He tweeted (in Hindi): "Amit Shah is shamelessly telling utter lies, the first OBC PM was H.D. Deve Gowda and we had made him Prime Minister. That time I was the national president of Janata Dal and I had empowered the deprived section of society by making an OBC the Prime Minister."

Overall, Vokkaligas are among the most dominant communities in Karnataka and comprise around 15 per cent of the 6 crore population. But Deve Gowda, an agriculturist by family background, belongs to the Gangatkar (also written Gangadkar) Vokkaliga community.

In Bangalore, senior Janata Dal (S) leader and MLA YSV Datta told The Telegraph that the Vokkaliga community of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda is classified as OBC. "As per the Mandal Commission report and the state backward classes commission his community falls under OBC," he said. "They are classified as category 3A, a grouping for less backward among the Vokkaligas," he said.

Lalu also questioned Prime Minister Modi's caste, by tweeting: "The Prime Minister has called himself a backward many times, but he never says that he became a backward on April 4, 2000, at the age of 50, and was a forward leader till then."

Amit Shah

He posted additional data on his Twitter handle, showing how Modh Ghanchis, the caste Modi belongs to, was included in the OBC list on April 4, 2000, when the BJP was in power both at the Centre and in Gujarat. Lalu also said it was hard to believe the BJP national president and the Prime Minister could face the people after mortgaging their dignity.

Nitish said: "Since the beginning I have been saying that the BJP was a master at playing the caste card, apart from playing the communal card, which they did during the Lok Sabha elections. If they are so serious about backward castes, why are they withholding the caste census report and not bringing it in the public domain?" On July 3, the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data was jointly released by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and Union rural development, panchayati raj and drinking water supply and sanitation minister Chaudhary Birendra Singh in New Delhi. The JDU and RJD have since been demanding that it be made public.

Nitish said if the data were made public, it would give a clearer picture on who deserved how much. Lalu has already announced a Raj Bhavan march on July 13 to press for his demand. Nitish and Lalu's bête noire, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, too, wants the data to be made public to help formulate a better policy for the underprivileged and downtrodden people in society.

The BJP, on the other hand, slammed the JDU and RJD leaders and said those indulging in politics of caste and religion want to use the report to disturb harmony in society.

At his one-day orientation programme today, Nitish announced an election bonanza by increasing the honorarium of Vikas Mitra from Rs 7,000 to Rs 10,000. He also announced Rs 4 lakh insurance on top of the 36 months' pay they used to get in case of unnatural death. He also distributed smart phones among them at a function at SK Memorial hall.

Vikas Mitras are Mahadalit youth who have been appointed on contract by the Nitish government to deliver benefits of several schemes meant to ameliorate the condition of Mahadalits. There are 9,530 Vikas Mitras in the state.

(Additional reporting by K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore)