The use of caste names in the list of Bihar PCC office-bearers has landed state Congress chief Anil Sharma and AICC in-charge Jagdish Tytler in trouble.
An AICC general secretary, who declined to be identified, blamed Sharma for the row that has shown the Congress in poor light as Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has been made a permanent invitee to the PCC and the list also mentioned her caste. The leader also did not spare Mr. Tytler, under whose signature the list was released.
“In releasing the list, norms were not followed. In such cases, the AICC releases the list and not the PCC concerned,” said the leader, hinting that Mr. Sharma had flouted the laid down process that has generally remained foolproof.
Meanwhile, Ms. Kumar said, “I belong to a political party. As a Speaker, I believe in strict neutrality of the chair.”
Apparently embarrassed by the use of caste names in the list, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said, “I do not know” when reporters asked her about the incident in Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The PCC leader said it was not uncommon that political parties in such exercises use caste names to ensure proper social balance but it was only meant for internal records. Besides, he said that in case of the Lok Sabha Speaker, the PCC has erred in not following the convention as per which the Speaker is above all such party posts and supposed to be neutral.
A report from Patna had it that the list was released by Anil Sharma at a press conference there on January 6.
Kumar’s caste name also finds mention against her name in the list of PCC office-bearers and she is among the 64 permanent invitees. Since Kumar holds a Constitutional office, she cannot hold any party post, while the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act says that any member of the community cannot be called by his or her caste name.
The list specifies the castes of the permanent invitees and 99 special invitees.
When contacted, Sharma denied having issued the list with caste names, but said, “We have tried to honour the Lok Sabha Speaker by including her in the list of permanent invitees as per tradition.”
“But I have not issued any list that carries the caste names of the leaders... had that been so, the list of other office-bearers, including vice president, secretaries and general secretaries would also have the caste details,” he said and described it as “a handiwork of forces inimical to me.”