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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 03 October 2023

MK Stalin brings together Opposition over caste census

Another demand that was articulated by a couple of party leaders pertained to extending reservation to the private sector

Anita Joshua New Delhi Published 04.04.23, 05:54 AM
MK Stalin.

MK Stalin. File Photo

Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin on Monday brought together representatives of 20 parties, including those who have been working for a non-Congress third front, on a social justice platform where there was broad consensus to mount pressure on the Narendra Modi government to conduct a caste census along with the long-overdue decennial census.

RJD’s Manoj Jha went a step further and called for the boycott of the decennial census if it did not include the caste census. Stating that “we need the numbers”, he gave a slogan, “no census, if no caste census”.

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Although the Bihar government, of which Jha’s party RJD is a key constituent, has started a caste-based survey, deputy chief minister Tejasvi Yadav pointed out that the state government’s hands were tied in this matter as only the Centre can order a census.

Another demand that was articulated by a couple of party leaders pertained to extending reservation to the private sector. Leading the charge in this regard was CPI’s D. Raja who pointed out that the existing reservation policy was being hollowed out by the reduction in government jobs and the privatisation of public sector undertakings. Such being the case, the only other way to ensure social justice for the marginalised communities, according to him, was to introduce reservations in the private sector.

Stalin was extremely critical of the Karnataka government’s decision to do away with the four per cent quota for Muslims. Referring to the merit argument flagged by those opposed to quotas, he wondered why the same question is not asked when reservation was introduced for the economically weaker sections of society.

Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh said the BJP was not willing to order a caste census because the party’s mother organisation, the RSS, wants to perpetuate the caste system.

Barring the Shiv Sena, all the Opposition parties which have been synchronising their floor strategy in Parliament attended the meeting conducted in the hybrid format with most leaders, including Stalin, making their presentations in the virtual mode.

While there was stress on the need for united action, the focus was mostly on social justice and not electoral politics. Naming the BJD and YSRCP as parties which do not want to fight the BJP, Trinamul’s Derek O’Brien told them this was not the time to sit on the fence.

A couple of speakers touched upon the controversy that the BJP has sought to whip up over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha election campaign remark on the “Modi” surname which has led to his disqualification from the lower house of Parliament.

Monday’ meeting was the first of two coordinated actions of the Opposition this week outside Parliament -- the other will be a hearing on Wednesday in the Supreme Court on the petition filed by 14 parties on the misuse of central agencies.

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