Rahul Gandhi on Friday expressed regret that the UPA government hadn’t introduced OBC sub-quotas in its women’s reservation bill, and accepted that there wasn’t adequate OBC representation in the top bureaucracy even under Congress-led governments.
On both subjects, he contended that mistakes of the past cannot decide future policies, thus attempting to chart a new course for the Congress in matters of social justice while seeking to corner the BJP on OBC issues.
Rahul repeated what he had said in Parliament, that he had been shocked to find there were only three OBCs among the 90 central government secretaries who manage the core of governance.
Asked how many OBC secretaries there were under Congress governments, Rahul said: “Whatever happened in our time, adequate representation is a must. Hamare samay kam theh woh bhi kharab hai (There weren’t enough in our time, and that too was bad). We want change.”
While Rahul has been demanding an OBC sub-quota in the newly passed women’s reservation bill, the BJP has flagged that the UPA’s version of the bill, which lapsed after the Rajya Sabha passed it in March 2010, had no such sub-quota, either.
Asked whether he regretted the absence of an OBC sub-quota from the UPA’s bill, Rahul said: “One hundred per cent regret. That should have been done then. But we will get it done now.”
Beneficiaries of various governmental schemes greet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 'Nari Shakti Vandan-Abhinandan Karyakram', a day after Parliament passed the women's reservation bill, at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 PTI picture
The Congress has traditionally relied on a social combination of Brahmins, Scheduled Castes and Muslims while the OBCs have largely opposed its politics. Rahul, however, is more sensitive about social justice than most other Congress leaders and intends to expand the party’s canvas to accommodate the OBCs who, he hinted on Friday, may be around half the country’s population.
Ironically, Rahul had been accused by the BJP of insulting OBCs and was thrown out of Parliament after a Gujarat court convicted him on criminal defamation charges and handed him a two-year sentence over a remark about the “Modi” surname.
Rahul is back as MP following a Supreme Court stay on his conviction. And he now appears to have pushed the Modi government on the back foot over OBC issues by sticking to the demand for a caste census and seeking an OBC sub-quota in the women’s reservation bill.
This politics suits the Congress at a time when virtually all the parties founded on the principle of social justice are partners in the Opposition combine INDIA.
Rahul has cleverly linked the Modi government to Adani, not the upper castes, while projecting it as harmful to OBC interests.
Rahul again said on Friday that the government should release the data of the caste census conducted by the Manmohan Singh government so that policymaking reflects various caste groups’ share of the population.
“Women’s reservation is a central step in the empowerment of the women of India. It is a critical step, but when we read the fine print, we found something very interesting,” Rahul said at the news conference.
“Two little subtexts were there. Number one: this will be done after delimitation; number two: this will be done after the census. What it means is, this bill will be implemented a decade from now.
“It is not going to be implemented today, and every woman in India should understand this, it is not going to be implemented. So, this is a diversionary tactic, it’s a way of making everyone’s attention move away.”
He added: “The question is, what are they moving away from? And the answer is the caste census. If we want to distribute power to the people of India, we have to know this number, otherwise we are working without data.
“The BJP’s answer, a very interesting answer, is that it doesn’t matter how many OBCs are in the Government of India (as bureaucrats). What matters is that we have MPs and MLAs who are from the OBCs.
“No. That’s not the point because you can ask any MP or any MLA how much they participate in lawmaking, how much they participate, how the money in India is spent. They will tell you, there is no participation.”
Rahul said the Modi government had curtailed the role of MPs. “Thirty-forty years ago, MPs debated legislation and played a critical role in making laws. Now the BJP has turned us into statues,” he said.
“I want real empowerment. I get angry when I see OBCs, who are the backbone of India, are discriminated against. The OBCs will get their due when our government comes. This government doesn’t believe in the transfer of power. Adani gets everything from this government.”