Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday said that the Congress supports reservation for the scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and other backward communities (OBC), a day after her party colleague Janardan Dwivedi kicked up a political storm by demanding an end to caste-based quota.
The statement was interpreted by party leaders as a clear snub to Dwivedi who had called for an end to reservation on caste lines on Tuesday, seeking quotas for the financially-weaker sections, bringing all communities under its ambit.
“Congress is of the firm opinion that the system of reservations for SC, ST and OBCs must continue,” Gandhi said. “This is essential to deal with the discrimination imposed by centuries of subjugation and oppression,” Gandhi added.
The government also clarified its stand on the issue with union minister Rajiv Shukla telling the Rajya Sabha, “The government is not considering any proposal to provide reservation based on economic criteria. The reservation as it stands today will continue as per constitutional provision.”
Gandhi rejected Dwivedi’s demand in a two-page statement that came after the party came under intense attack from the opposition and its own allies both inside and outside Parliament. The issue even saw dissent within the party.
“The empowerment of SCs, STs and OBCs has been an article of faith with Congress…. There should be no doubt on the stand of Congress on the system of reservation…. They were introduced by Congress, they have been strengthened by Congress and they will continue to be championed by Congress,” Gandhi added.
The BJP, earlier in the day, dubbed Dwivedi’s statement as a "trial balloon" and alleged that the Congress was trying to initiate a new debate to sidetrack ‘anti-government’ sentiments on corruption and price rise. “This is not right….we won’t allow it,” said senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati also condemned Dwivedi’s statement and asked the Congress to clarify its stand.
Read: Janardan Dwivedi's quota remarks 'trial balloon': BJP