The Congress leadership has taken a serious view of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken writing to young MPs, cutting across party lines, in an attempt to build political opinion against a caste-based census. Top party sources told The Hindu that Mr. Maken had been taken to task for placing his views in the public domain on an issue which has been entrusted to a Group of Ministers (GOM) by the Union Cabinet. “What is the need to take such views to the media?” these sources said, adding, “they could have been discussed on a party forum.”

Officially, too, the party took a tough line. “People in responsible positions, whether in party or government should desist from expressing their personal views in letters which are made public,” Congress media chairperson Janardan Dwivedi said. He then paused and added, “My feeling is that, now, Ajay Maken feels the same.” Party sources confirmed that Mr. Dwivedi had conveyed the Congress leadership's displeasure to Mr. Maken.

Supporters' stance

However, Mr. Maken's supporters took a different stance: they said that since Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily had been expressing his views in favour of a caste-based census publicly, they saw nothing wrong in the Union Minister of State for Home expressing his views too, given that there was no firm decision as yet on the issue.

On Thursday, Mr. Maken dashed off a long, impassioned letter to all young MPs, warning them against the dangerous political consequences — in his view — of doing a caste-based census, even placing the text of that letter on his blog, http://ajaymakenthoughts.blogspot.com. Curiously, the letter, which asks young MPs to unite against “divisive agendas for short term political gains,” made it to the media even before most young MPs had received it.

In the letter, he has said that whether it was the founding fathers or their successors in the various political parties – not just the Congress – all of them were united in their belief that development should be the goal. Indeed, he names socialist icon Ram Manohar Lohia and former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in the same breath as he does all the Congress stalwarts. “Be it Mahatma Gandhi, Pt. Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr. Lohia, Indira Ji, Rajiv Ji or Atal Ji, the goal was economic betterment, political empowerment and Social Justice to be achieved through inclusive development — indeed caste count in census was never advocated by either of them, least by Dr. Lohia whose most famous quote remains Jaat naa puchho sadhu ki,” he has written.

If the political leadership has not taken kindly to Mr. Maken's letter, young Congress MPs, in both the party and the government, described it as a breach of discipline. “The issue has been placed before a GOM already. So whether he writes a letter or not will make no difference,” a Minister told The Hindu, adding, “the only explanation is that he is positioning himself.”

In a similar vein, an MP from a southern State said, “How can a Minister and that too, one whose Ministry will conduct the census write such a public letter, whatever his reservations may be? It would appear that everyone now wants a personal rather than party identity.”

With Mr. Maken's letter hitting the headlines the same day that party MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy's tour of the Telangana region – undertaken in defiance of the party leadership — triggered violence across the Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh, party MPs expressed their concern at what they see as growing indiscipline in the party.

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