By Sushil Kutty
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is hard at campaigning for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where the last legs of electioneering are at their peak. Listening to Rahul Gandhi makes it clear that he does not like it that Prime Minister Narendra Modi refuses to speak on the caste census, which is what Rahul Gandhi has in his mind these days. The ‘caste census vow’ is what the Congress leader keeps repeating wherever he makes a halt to make a campaign speech, whether it is in Madhya Pradesh or in Chhattisgarh. Rahul Gandhi’s earnestness shines through when he reiterates the Congress vow to get a caste census done.
Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother, the redoubtable Indira Gandhi, was dead against caste forget caste census. In fact, she was of the mind to do away with caste altogether. But those days of Indira Gandhi were different, politically and otherwise, and Indira Gandhi ruled the roost. These days, Narendra Modi and the BJP call the shots, which is why opposition INDI-Alliance wants a caste census and if Indira Gandhi were alive she would have approved; perhaps, even called the call for a caste census a masterstroke.
So the Wayanad MP never fails to mention the Congress commitment to caste census and the Prime Minister’s allergy to the caste census. The Congress believes it has an election winner in the caste census. The entire INDI-Alliance believes. And, from the looks of it, the BJP gets kind of nervous when Rahul Gandhi talks of caste census and the Prime Minister’s studied silence.
The ostensible reason for a caste census is to do justice to each caste according to its population. What Rahul Gandhi calls ‘Jiski Jitni Abaadi, Uski Utni Bhagidaari’. The reality is two-pronged. One, the ‘abaadi-bhagidaari’ justification, which is a goal. What matters, however, for the INDI-Alliance, is splintering the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindu/Hindutva vote-bank, which is the saffron party’s backbone. Rahul Gandhi will do justice to the various castes, according to their caste census, once the Congress wins the states and the opposition INDI-Alliance takes charge of running INDIA in 2024.
For the moment, Rahul Gandhi is mad at the Prime Minister who cannot see that OBCs are getting the short end of the stick. In fact, says Rahul, the Prime Minister should be held to account for refusing to believe that caste exists, which is downright criminal. The Congress leader, who could become Prime Minister, says if the INDI-Alliance comes to power, “we will guarantee a caste census”.
Gandhi’s logic— every caste should know its strength for it to get its share of the power-pie. Wherever he goes to campaign for the Congress, the Wayanad MP trots out caste numbers and caste representations in BJP governments. The Congress is aiming for the OBC Hindu votes, the mainstay of the BJP. So Rahul Gandhi makes it a point to tell the OBCs how BJP state governments are prone to rob them blind of their share in power-play and government, of their God-given right to resources and representation.
And if caste is a bad word it cannot be set right by claiming that caste does not exist. While campaigning in Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi tells the public that 53 officers run the state out of which only one is an OBC officer. How can this be tolerated when the OBC population is more than 50 percent? It is an insult, says Gandhi, sure that more than half the crowd will be from the OBCs.
It is a nice election ploy— ‘play’, if you’re inclined to call it that—a mind-game with the OBCs. The Congress leader wants the voters to weigh their options before they cast the vote. And so long as castes exist, his campaign cannot go wrong. Denying the existence of castes is like saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing great running the government and the country. The majority will not believe and the rest will take it as a joke.
Rahul Gandhi actually believes that the Congress/INDI-Alliance will come to power in 2024. Rahul Gandhi makes it a point to wave at supporters when holding roadshows and rallies in the states going to polls, including in Madhya Pradesh, which, he says, is the most “corrupt state of India”. Rahul Gandhi completely forgets Chhattisgarh—where Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is fighting both BJP and corruption charges—when campaigning in Madhya Pradesh.
It is a special talent, compartmentalizing the elections, forgetting one state while in the other, keeping both separate and exclusive. Electioneering in Madhya Pradesh and in Chhattisgarh are in their last legs and Rahul Gandhi has planned several rallies, public meetings, and roadshows for the days left. And he will have Prime Minister Narendra Modi and caste-breakups in mind when he addresses the crowds, eyes set not only on the 5-states’ assembly elections but also on the 2024 general elections, which is less than six months away. (IPA Service)