Special Correspondent

Congress warns against playing politics over such sensitive issue

NEW DELHI: With the Bharatiya Janata Party determined to throw its Gujjar-related problems in Rajasthan at the Centre, the Congress warned that no one should play politics with such sensitive issues.

The BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said that the party’s government in Rajasthan had sent its recommendations to the Centre that norms for determining Scheduled Tribe status were outmoded and needed to be recast. Since it was the Gujjar demand for scheduled tribe status that started this controversy, the BJP’ case was that only the Centre could change norms and then decide the Gujjar case.

In response, Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed warned that no party should play politics with such sensitive issues. The warning has come against the backdrop of the Gujjar leaders in Rajasthan threatening a nationwide stir on the issue.

Mr. Ahmed pointed out that the BJP had made an election promise to Gujjars during the Assembly election in Rajasthan in 2003 when a BJP-led government was at the Centre. The BJP-led government at the Centre could have studied the issue of changing norms for grant of tribal status before making “empty election promises”. It was now trying to throw the ball at the Centre. He said whatever the State government’s recommendation, the Centre would look at it carefully.

Mr. Javadekar not only said it was for the centre to decide the Gujjar case, but also declined to say, when asked, whether the BJP would fulfil its election promise if it came to power at the Centre. “We did not make this promise to grant Scheduled Tribe status to the Gujjars in our manifesto,” he aid, while admitting “that this might have been made during the “parivartan yatra’” carried out by then chief ministerial candidate and now Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

The BJP has made it clear that it has no power to grant the demand made by Gujjars. At the same time it is reluctant to even suggest that it supports the Gujjar demand for fear of annoying the powerful Meenas, who enjoy Scheduled Tribe status and are opposed to Gujjars getting the same.