PM’s counter on caste census demand: Poor should have the first right on resources

He also questioned what would happen to religious minorities if rights were proportional to population share, asking whether the Congress wanted the majority Hindus to usurp minority rights

Updated - October 03, 2023 10:27 pm IST

Published - October 03, 2023 09:49 pm IST - RAIPUR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses during an event organised at Jagdalpur in Bastar district, on October 3, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses during an event organised at Jagdalpur in Bastar district, on October 3, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Questioning the Congress’ proposition that the rights of a community should be in proportion to its numbers in a society, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 3 asserted that poor people should have the first rights over the country’s resources as they formed the biggest chunk of the population. 

Mr. Modi was addressing a public meeting in Chhattisgarh’s Jagdalpur, a day after the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government released a caste survey revealing that people from the other backward classes (OBCs) and extremely backward classes (EBCs) constitute a whopping 63% of Bihar’s population. The Congress has hailed the findings of the survey, with its leader Rahul Gandhi saying that a nationwide caste-based census was needed to ensure representation in accordance with the population.

‘Poor have biggest population share’

“Since yesterday, Congress has started singing a new tune. Congress leaders say more the population, greater the rights. I say that the largest population in this country is that of the poor. Therefore, for me the poor are the biggest [chunk of the] population and the welfare of the poor is my aim,” he said. 

Referring to an old speech by his predecessor Manmohan Singh, he asked whether the Congress emphasis on numbers meant that the party wanted the majority Hindu population to usurp the rights of minority communities.

Minority rights

“I was wondering, what would former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh be thinking? He used to say that the minorities, and that too Muslims, have the first right on the country’s resources. Now Congress is saying that the population will decide who should have the first right. Now does Congress want to reduce the rights of minorities?” he asked. 

“If it would be determined according to the population, whose population is more?” he asked. “Congress should clarify whether the rights will be given according to the population. So does Congress want to remove the minorities?” he said. 

Mr. Modi alleged that the “Congress wants to destroy India by dividing the Hindus of the country at any cost” and that it wanted to divide the poor.

‘Anti-national forces’

He reiterated his earlier allegation that the party was not being run by Congress people but had outsourced the job to outsiders. “Congress is being run by people who are in league with anti-national forces,” he claimed, adding that it had entered a secret pact with some other undisclosed country. “It [the Congress] is presenting the good things of India in a bad light and enjoying it. It seems their love for the country has declined,” he said, cautioning people to remain alert.

Making a play on the Hindi words, he also accused the Congress of converting loktantra (democracy) to lootantra (corruption), and prajatantra (democracy) to parivartantra (dynasty).

Caste perspectives

The Congress –  supported by its INDIA bloc partners, including the members of Bihar’s ruling coalition – have been demanding a caste census, and the findings of the Bihar caste survey have intensified their demand. On Monday, at a rally in Gwalior, the Prime Minister had said that his political opponents were committing the sin of dividing the society along caste lines. 

In other recent public meetings, too, he has targeted the Opposition over their demands to include an OBC quota within the women’s reservation law, accusing them of conspiring to divide women in power. 

However, in Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur on September 30, Mr. Modi himself had asserted his caste identity and alleged that the Congress was targeting him because he belonged to an OBC community. In June, during an interactive session with BJP workers from across the country livestreamed from Bhopal, Mr. Modi had listed out several marginalised caste groups – among the backward and Scheduled Castes – across the country, Statewise, and had alleged that they had lost out due to the “politics of appeasment”. 

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