Even as the Group of Ministers (GoM) dealing with the issue of the caste enumeration in Census 2011 feels that all that is left to discuss is the methodology of enumeration, Congress sources say a “draft position paper” is being prepared to set out the party line on the subject as many senior members opposed the idea.
The principal Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party also remains divided on the issue, and therefore, its core group will meet on August 6 — a day ahead of the August 7 deadline set by the government to answer its queries on the issue.
For the BJP — which has a big contingent of Other Backward Class MPs, led by its Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha, Gopinath Munde, who made a stirring speech in the Lok Sabha in May supporting a caste headcount — it may be also difficult to renege on the position taken, despite pressure from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
As the churning in the two parties continues, sources in both parties admitted that in all likelihood, politics would win the day, especially as both have virtually committed themselves in Parliament when the subject was discussed during the Budget session.
Articulating the stand of those in the Congress opposed to a caste census, a leader said the issues being discussed in his party included whether only OBCs should be enumerated or all castes; whether it should be a one-time exercise or institutionalised; whether this would lead to development funds being linked to numbers of a certain community; and finally, doubts about the integrity of such data.
On the draft paper being prepared in the Congress, sources said it could be taken to the Core Committee and then to the Congress Working Committee to arrive at a final view. However, those opposing it were well aware of the possibility of a political backlash if a caste headcount was opposed.
The GoM is due to meet soon, but a date had not been set at the time of writing. But clearly, if the government wants to do the caste headcount in Census 2011, it will have to take a decision quickly as time is running out.