A red-faced Congress has initiated an inquiry into the use of caste-based names in the list of newly constituted Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee and into the inclusion of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar’s name as an invitee.
While Congress leaders believe that the caste-based categorisation can cause damage to the party in an election year, the names of presiding officers are usually kept out of such panels in order to safeguard their neutrality.
Spokesman Manish Tewari tried to downplay the controversy by claiming that the officially released list did not carry caste or religion-based categorisations.
The faux pas has put state unit chief Anil Sharma and AICC leader in-charge of Bihar Jagdish Tytler, whose signature was on the list, in the dock.
On Wednesday, a delegation of 10 Bihar Congress leaders, including former speaker Sadanand Singh, called on Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi to apprise him of the developments. They have also sought an appointment with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
On Tuesday, the Congress chief washed her hands of the controversy saying that she “did not know’’ about the released list. The Speaker, on her part, said, “I belong to a political party. As a Speaker, I believe in strict neutrality of the chair.’’
Privately, Congress leaders do not see anything “illegal’’ in Kumar’s inclusion though the caste-based list is rankling them. No one in the Congress is disputing the existence of such a list. They acknowledge that the draft list of officebearers mentions their castes to help strike a social balance. The AICC releases the final list sans the caste names.
“...this time, the norms were not followed,’’ said a leader. On the issue of dragging the Speaker into controversy, Tewari said, “There is no intent to bring any constitutional functionary into disrepute. How the document became public is a matter of inquiry.’’