Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday advocated for a caste census and asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was ”afraid” of it as well as demanded the immediate implementation of reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
A bill to reserve one-third of seats in the legislative bodies for women received the parliamentary nod on Thursday as the Rajya Sabha voted unanimously in favour of it.
The 128th Constitution amendment bill, referred to as the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, will now require the approval of a majority of state assemblies. It will be implemented after a delimitation exercise to redraw parliamentary and assembly constituencies based on a census which the government has said will be commissioned next year.
The BJP wants the reservation for women to be implemented in ”10 years, but we want it today and OBCs (other backward classes) included in it”, Gandhi told a conference of Congress workers here in poll-bound Rajasthan.
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The bill was passed in a special session of Parliament that began on September 18 and ended on Thursday.
The session, the Congress leader claimed, was called to change the name of India to Bharat, but instead the women’s reservation bill was introduced.
Earlier this month, invitations for a G20 dinner were sent out by President Droupadi Murmu describing her position as ‘President of Bharat’ instead of the customary ‘President of India’, triggering a massive furore with the opposition alleging that the Modi government was planning to drop India and stay with just Bharat as the country’s name.
Gandhi said the women’s reservation bill can be implemented in Parliament and assemblies today itself, but the central government wants to postpone it for 10 years on the pretext of delimitation and a new census. The Congress wants women’s reservation to be implemented today itself, he said.
Demanding a caste census, the former Congress president said, ”If we talk about giving participation to OBCs, then it cannot be done without a caste census. So, the prime minister talks about OBCs 24 hours a day. He talks about respecting OBCs. Then why is the prime minister afraid of a caste census?”.
”The prime minister, please tell India in your next speech that the Congress had conducted a caste census. You have the figures. Show it to the people of India. You should conduct the next census on the basis of caste. Do not insult OBCs. Do not cheat OBCs,” he said.
He said that ”as soon as I started raising the issue of caste census in Parliament, BJP MPs tried to suppress my voice”. There is a ideological fight going on between the BJP and the Congress, Gandhi said. On Wednesday too in Lok Sabha, Gandhi had batted for immediate implementation of the women’s reservation bill and said that the legislation is ”incomplete” without provision for quota for OBCs.
During the conference, Gandhi claimed that 90 secretaries run the central government but only three of them are from OBCs and take decisions only on five per cent of the budget. These OBC secretaries are sidelined, he alleged.
The Congress leader had earlier made the claim on Wednesday in the Lok Sabha during the special session of Parliament.
On Thursday in Rajya Sabha, BJP member and party chief JP Nadda in an apparent reference to Gandhi’s remarks on OBC secretaries had said the OBC reservation in services was implemented only after the Supreme Court asked for it in 1992.
Nadda had said the cut-off for the current panel of secretaries is 1992 and asked the Congress about the number of OBC secretaries during the 2004-2014 period, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power at the Centre.
Hitting out at the BJP on the Adani issue, Gandhi said, ”If you ask BJP workers about the relationship between Adani (billionaire Gautam Adani) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they will run away.” Gandhi called Congress workers ”Babbar Shers (lions)” and highlighted the achievements of the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan and its schemes such as the Chiranjeevi health insurance scheme and the Mahatma Gandhi English Medium School programme. Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge and other leaders also addressed the meeting, which was attended by party workers from the booth to the state level. Chief Minister Gehlot said exuded confidence that the Congress will repeat its government in the state. ”This is for the first time that there is no anti-incumbency as we have done incomparable work,” he said.
”It should be our resolve that our government should be repeated at any cost. We have kept our promises. Forget all differences… as victory in the Rajasthan assembly polls will give a message to the country,” he said.
The assembly polls are due later this year, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Rajasthan Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasara said in the upcoming polls, the Congress will repeat its government and ”we will oust the BJP from the Centre in 2024”. The Rajasthan government has done a great job and there is no anti-incumbency, he said. Senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot also exuded confidence that his party will not only come back to power in Rajasthan but also form government at the Centre.
Prior to the conference in the Mansarover area of the state capital, Kharge and Gandhi laid the foundation stone of the new Pradesh Congress Committee building.
Earlier in the day, Gandhi interacted with women students at the Maharani college. He also rode pillion on a two-wheeler driven by a woman.