Congress ups the ante on caste census as Kharge writes to PM Modi demanding it

In his letter to PM Modi, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge also points out that the regular decennial census was to be carried out in 2021 but it has not yet been conducted

April 17, 2023 01:45 pm | Updated 08:39 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge with the party leader Rahul Gandhi. File

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge with the party leader Rahul Gandhi. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

A day after senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi raised the question “Kis Ki Kitni Abadi” (what is the proportion of population) demanding to know the strength of the OBC community in the country, the Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge took the debate a step forward by writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking his government to conduct the caste census.

The Congress, according to sources, is planning to make Narendra Modi government’s reluctance in conducting the caste-census in the front and centre of its campaign for the 2024 general elections. It is seen as a counter to BJP’s own successfully tested election strategy of unifying the splintered backward community under the larger Hindutva umbrella.

Explained | Why is the government against caste census?

The biggest question is how many OBCs, tribals and Dalits are there in India, Mr. Gandhi, had said in his speech on Sunday at Kolar, Karnataka. “If we talk of money and power distribution, then the first step should be to find out the size of their population.” He had also dared the Union government to make the data from Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) conducted during 2011-12 public.

Reiterating the same point, Mr. Kharge in his letter dated April 16 coinciding with Mr. Gandhi’s Kolar address said that meaningful social justice and empowerment programmes are incomplete in absence of such a data.

The Congress President also flagged Modi-government’s failure in conducting decennial census, which was scheduled to be conducted in 2021.

He wrote, “I am writing to you to once again place on record the demand of the Indian National Congress for an up-to-date Caste Census. My colleagues and I have raised this demand earlier in both House of Parliament on a number of occasions as have leaders of many other Opposition parties.”

Parley | Is a caste census desirable?

Lobbing the ball firmly into the Union government’s court, he added, “In the absence of an updated Caste Census, I am afraid a reliable data base so very essential for meaningful social justice and empowerment programmes, particularly for OBCs, is incomplete. This Census is the responsibility of the Union Government. We demand that it be done immediately and that a comprehensive Caste Census be made its integral part,” Mr. Kharge said.

The Congress’s demand for caste-census is also seen as a counter to BJP’s campaign against Mr. Gandhi for his 2019 comments “why all thieves have Modi surname” again made during an election rally in Kolar. Congress is also in touch with other opposition parties – RJD, JD(U), SP and others to amplify the campaign. In Bihar, where it is in government in alliance with the RJD and JD(U), the government is already conducting a caste census.

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