The Congress “regrets” that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government did not pass its Women’s Reservation Bill in 2010 by including a quota for women from other backward classes (OBCs), former party chief Rahul Gandhi said on September 22, even as he asserted that his party would successfully carry out a caste-based census if it comes to power.
Mr. Gandhi claimed that the BJP-led government had brought in its Women’s Reservation Bill as a distraction from the Opposition’s demand for such a census. “So, this is a diversionary tactic, it’s a way of making everyone’s attention move away. The question is what are they moving away from? And the answer is the caste census,” he said.
The Congress leader added that the Bill would be implemented, if at all, after 10 years, noting the legislation’s “footnotes” requiring a new census and delimitation exercise to be conducted first. He urged immediate implementation.
Mr. Gandhi claimed that he was “shocked” to see the under-representation of OBCs, as well as Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/ST) in the bureaucracy, and countered Home Minister Amit Shah’s assertion that 29% of BJP parliamentarians were from OBC communities. “The MPs have been treated like statues and they have no power or role in the law-making process,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi reiterated his assertion that only three out of the 90 secretaries to the government of India were from OBC communities, adding that these three controlled “merely five per cent of the Budget”.
“...As the Prime Minister keeps saying, he is an OBC leader. I want him to explain, why only three OBCs are there in the government of India? And why the OBC community, which is the backbone of this country, is responsible for only five per cent of the budget?”he asked.
Regret for 2010 Bill
Asked if he regretted that the UPA government’s Women’s Reservation Bill also did not have a separate quota for OBC women, Mr. Gandhi said, “100%, there is regret. We should have done then and we will definitely.”
In March 2010, the UPA government had managed to pass its Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha but never brought the bill to the Lok Sabha due to the lack of consensus over the question of a “quota within quota” for OBC women, as well as not having the numbers to ensure its passage.
But the Congress — that is now part of the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), where several regional players such as the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal-United (JD-U), and Rashtriya Janata Dal have championed the OBC cause — has made a U-turn on its position.
On Thursday, four Rajya Sabha members of the Congress, including general secretary (organisational) K.C. Venugopal, had moved amendments to include an OBC quota in the Bill, as well as to implement the law as soon as it is passed.
“Both of these were emphatically rejected by the BJP. They don’t take decisions from the heart, but are driven by the cold political calculations of their mind,” Mr. Venugopal said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).