Govt decision catches Cong offguard, says it’s divisive

A section in the Congress is upset at the government’s move to include caste in the ongoing census enumeration, reports Saroj Nagi.

delhi Updated: May 09, 2010 23:47 IST
Saroj Nagi
Saroj Nagi
Hindustan Times

A section in the Congress is upset at the government’s move to include caste in the ongoing census enumeration.

“The founding fathers of the Constitution had decided against caste-based census. There must have been a rationale for rejecting it….Caste census will open a Pandora’s Box. It will open the floodgates for divisive forces, lead to demands for caste reservations in legislative bodies and give a handle to religious insurgencies,’’ warned a Congressman.

He clung to the hope that the government would somehow wriggle out of this and even it proceeded on it and issued an order, the judiciary would junk it.

Congressmen are caught offguard by the suddenness with which the government agreed to include caste as a column in the information sheet in the ongoing census operation.

“There was no debate either in the party or outside it on such an important issue,’’ said another leader. But then, meetings of the Congress Working Committee, which should be discussing such issues, have been few and far between.

Indeed, party president Sonia Gandhi has not even called a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party during the Budget session. In her speech at the CPP, Gandhi normally flags important issues and spells out the party’s line on them to her MPs who then have to propagate it among the people. In this case, there was no directive.

“But the government would not have proceeded without getting Gandhi’s endorsement on a caste-based census,” said another Congress leader.

Yet there is bound to be opposition to it when the issue comes up for Cabinet clearance.

While Home Minister P. Chidambaran had highlighted the problems in a caste-based census, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has stiffly opposed the idea during

last week’s Cabinet meeting. But a day later, the tone and tenor of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement in the Lok Sabha indicated that the government was favourably disposed to the idea. And Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on behalf of the government, publicly stated that caste would be part of the census operation,

Served with a fait accompli, Congressmen are now trying to derive the mileage they can draw from it.

“We will hardsell the fact that the Congress-led government decided on a caste-based census for the first time after Independence,’’ said a Congress leader.

First Published: May 09, 2010 23:45 IST