Our government will conduct a country-wide caste census: Congress Working Committee

‘We will remove the cap of 50% on reservation through legislation and implement women’s reservation law to provide 33% quota for women in Lok Sabha and Assemblies at the earliest’, says resolution

Updated - October 09, 2023 10:22 pm IST

Published - October 09, 2023 09:49 pm IST - New Delhi:

Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and other leaders during Congress Working Committee(CWC) meeting in New Delhi, on October 9, 2023.

Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and other leaders during Congress Working Committee(CWC) meeting in New Delhi, on October 9, 2023. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

A Congress-led government will conduct a nation-wide caste census as part of the decadal census that was due in 2021, remove the cap of 50% on reservation through legislation and implement the women’s reservation law to provide 33% quota for women in Lok Sabha and Assemblies at the earliest, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) said in a resolution that was unanimously adopted on October 9.

Calling it a “historic resolution”, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said caste census was “a matter of ensuring justice and not politics” and asserted that the party-ruled States would be conducting caste surveys on the lines of Bihar.

“I think it [caste census] is a very progressive and powerful step for the emancipation of the poor people in our country,” Mr. Gandhi told reporters at a press conference at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters.

To underscore his point that the weaker sections are not getting their fair share, Mr. Gandhi asked for a show of hands from journalists to know how many of them were Dalits and other backward classes (OBCs).

Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi as someone who is “incapable” of doing the caste census, he said the Congress would either force the BJP to do it or force it to get out of the way. Asked if all the parties belonging to the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc agreed to caste census, he said majority of the parties agreed with it but one or two parties might have a different view. “We are not a fascist system, we are quite flexible, if somebody has a slightly different opinion,” he said.

‘Rightful share’

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge set the tone with his opening remarks in which he told the CWC that to ensure the “rightful share of the weaker sections in welfare schemes, it is essential to have their socio-economic data”.

Terming it the party’s highest priority, chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) Sonia Gandhi is learnt to have said, “I am 100% with the caste census, we must get it done”.

“Therefore, the Indian National Congress promises that a government led by it will conduct a nation-wide caste census as part of the normal decadal census which was due in 2021,” the CWC resolution said.

“Remove the cap of 50% through legislation for the reservation of OBCs, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, in line with the commensurate share of population,” the resolution added.

In the closed door meeting, senior leaders including Manish Tewari, Ramesh Chennithala, Deepender Hooda and Shashi Tharoor flagged some concerns while backing a caste census.

Mr. Tewari is learnt to have been advised caution in relaxing the 50% cap on reservation and quoted B. R. Ambedkar to state that “equality should be the rule and affirmative action, the exception.”

Mr. Chennithala too is said to have argued that population numbers alone cannot be a determinant of backwardness.

Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is said to have stressed on the need to communicate the necessity to have a caste census well.

Moily-led panel

At the CWC meeting, Mr. Gandhi explained to his colleagues how the issue of caste census was raised during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, a committee under veteran leader M. Veerappa Moily was appointed and how the idea found support at the Raipur plenary session.

Mr. Moily is learnt to have said that the demand for a caste census within the Congress existed since the 1930s and was not a “new” direction for the party.

The CWC resolution also welcomed the Bihar caste survey as well as the Union government-appointed Justice Rohini Commission for the sub-categorisation of other backward classes (OBC). However, it noted that the process of sub-categorisation of OBCs would remain incomplete without detailed data on the socio-economic position of various communities, that can be “obtained either from the unreleased data from the 2011 socio-economic and caste census or a fresh caste census”.

The CWC resolution also condemned the targeting of those journalists who question the government, expressed deep anguish over the continuing humanitarian crisis in Manipur, among other issues.

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