‘OBCs have to look at themselves as one caste’

In a rare meeting of minds, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, also a prominent leader of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Maharashtra and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde made a strong pitch for the OBC census at a function here on Saturday.

The leaders were speaking at a felicitation function of OBC MPs, MLAs and leaders, organised by the All Indian Muslim OBC Organisation.

“The date available on the OBC census is from the British Raj. Today there are 340 castes or jatis among the OBCs, who constitute 54 per cent of the country's population. There is a need for the OBC Census, but they [government] don't want it,” Mr. Bhujbal said.

Making a case for reservation in politics, he said leaders from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes have been articulate about the issues of their communities as they get elected from reserved seats. “That is not so for the OBC leaders. Having to contest in open seats, they lose their political teeth and are scared to be vocal with their demands. In the context of the Women's Reservation Bill, he said one more amendment granting reservation for the OBCs in Parliament could be ushered in, in the same manner.

Before a predominantly Muslim audience, Mr. Bhujbal vouched his support for reservation for the Muslim OBCs as well. He urged the OBCs to back any leader who spearheaded their cause. Referring to the Phule-Ambedkar tradition, Mr. Bhujbal said that the OBC class lacked that kind of awakening. He said each caste in the OBC category had leaders working for their caste, leading to a lot of infighting. He said the OBCs have to look at themselves as one caste, lest they lose focus of their struggle.

Overriding the rivalries between their parties, Mr. Munde declared his backing for Mr. Bhujbal's leadership of the OBC movement. “Let us organise and strengthen ourselves. We have to be one. I will fight with you shoulder to shoulder. [Mr.] Bhujbal should lead this struggle,” he said. When members on the dais sought his support in making Mr. Bhujbal the first OBC Chief Minister, Mr. Munde said if it were in his hands, he would have done it long ago.

Reiterating the demand for the OBC census, he also hinted at boycotting Census 2011. “Cattle, fowl and other animals will be counted, but the OBC won't be. If the 52 per cent of the OBCs boycott the Census, whom will they count?” They demanded the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations for reservation in Parliament and Vidhan Sabha.

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