Row deepens as Congress stands by its claim on Gujarat’s 2002 notification

The controversy over the inclusion of the Modh Ghanchi community — to which the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi belongs — in the Other Backward Classes list intensified on Friday with the party saying the decision was taken during the Congress regime.

The Congress, however, stood by its claim that it was the Gujarat government which issued the notification to include the community in the OBC list in 2002 after Mr. Modi became Chief Minister. “We stand by the fact revealed by Shaktisinh Gohil [leader of the Gujarat Congress],” party spokesperson Ajay Maken told reporters here.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said: “Does the Congress believe that every time a caste is added to the OBC list it is paap [sin]? In any case Modh Ghanchi was added as an OBC in Gujarat on July 25, 1994 by the Congress government headed by Chhabildas Mehta and in the Mandal Commission list by the government of India on April 4, 2000. Both these events took place much before Modi became Chief Minister.”

On Thursday, Mr. Gohil alleged that Mr. Modi had committed the paap of including his own community in the OBC list and thus changed his stature from upper caste to the OBC.

Explaining the Congress claim, Mr. Maken said the Gujarat government’s first OBC list notified in 1978 did not include Modh Ghanchi. In 1994, the State government instituted a commission to revise the list. It was only in 1999, when Gujarat was ruled by the BJP and the Centre by the NDA, that the State government approached the Centre to include this community in the OBC list, and subsequently the Centre accepted the recommendation.

“However, it was only a few months before Mr. Modi was installed as CM that the community was notified as an OBC.” And as Chief Minister, Mr. Modi, issued the same notification in 2002, Mr. Maken said.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Sudhanshu Trivedi blamed BSP supremo Mayawati for first invoking Mr. Modi’s caste during the ongoing elections and said the Congress latched on to the caste card. “We have been raising the issue of development and good governance but the Opposition has raked up the caste issue.”