As the Lok Sabha 2024 elections loom on the horizon, Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Gandhi family, has thrown the weight of the Congress party behind the demand for a nationwide caste census.
His rallying cry, “Jitni Aabadi Utna Haq”, has gained momentum. This comes especially after the release of the Caste Census report in Bihar. However, it’s worth noting that historical parliamentary records reveal a stark contrast in the approach towards this issue within the Congress party.
Divide And Rule
Interestingly, Rahul Gandhi’s late father, Rajiv Gandhi, vehemently opposed the idea of a caste census. In fact, if he were alive today, he might have sternly criticized his son for advocating this demand.
Rajiv Gandhi’s stance on this issue was clear during his time as Prime Minister. He accused the then Prime Minister VP Singh of potentially leading the country into caste-based conflicts with the Mandal Commission report.
In 1990, Rajiv Gandhi passionately advocated for a “casteless society” and implored the Parliament not to allow one individual’s stubbornness to trigger a “caste war” in India.
He believed that caste-based politics could prove detrimental and divisive for the country. In his address to the Lok Sabha, he stated,
“It is extremely sad that the thinking in this government revolves around caste…VP Singh is causing a rift in our society.”
Rajiv Gandhi firmly asserted that the national goal must be to build a society free from caste divisions. He emphasized that the removal of casteism was an integral part of this objective. He echoed concerns that are surprisingly similar to those raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi has warned that a caste census could potentially divide the nation.
Rajiv Gandhi’s Critique
Rajiv Gandhi’s critique of VP Singh’s government went further, as he believed it was fostering a “vested interest in casteism”. He warned that India would pay a heavy price for this. Gandhi questioned why the government had accepted caste as the sole identifier and stressed that tackling backwardness and poverty required addressing the root causes while providing equal opportunities.
The former Prime Minister also expressed support for affirmative action plans aimed at helping backward communities. He urged a comprehensive approach rather than politically motivated manipulations, emphasizing that the Congress Party was in favor of such initiatives.
In his impassioned speech, Rajiv Gandhi acknowledged that caste played a significant role in India but challenged the nation to aspire to a casteless society. He criticized VP Singh for not taking a clear stance on this matter and appealed to the Parliament not to let one person’s obstinacy lead to a caste war in India.
Rajiv Gandhi concluded by expressing the Congress Party’s commitment to supporting socially and educationally backward classes, particularly those who were the poorest and weakest within these communities. This commitment was outlined in the Working Committee’s Resolution dated August 30.
Gandhi’s Caste Census
In light of these historical records, Rahul Gandhi’s call for a nationwide caste census appears to be a significant departure from the Congress party’s legacy under the leadership of his late father, Rajiv Gandhi. The debate over a caste census continues to be a complex and contentious issue in Indian politics, with contrasting viewpoints within and outside the Congress party. Only time will tell how this debate shapes the political landscape in the run-up to the Lok Sabha 2024 elections.