Karnataka polls: Rahul Gandhi again calls for caste census, proportionate reservation

Rahul Gandhi said BJP and RSS were attacking 12th century social reformer Basavanna’s ideals of equal partnership and equal opportunities

Rahul Gandhi, Bidar district, Karnataka assembly elections, Karnataka elections 2023
Sources said Rahul Gandhi has been on a hunt for a space to set up his independent office. File photo

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday reiterated his stand that 50 per cent cap on reservation should be lifted and that the caste census should be made public so that OBCs are given better representation.

He also asked for Dalits and Adivasis be given reservation proportionate to their population in the country.

Speaking at public meetings in Bhalki and Humnabad in Karnataka’s Bidar district, he said that Bidar was 12th century social reformer Basavanna’s karma bhoomi, and that BJP and RSS were attacking Basavanna’s ideals of equal partnership, equal opportunities and everyone moving ahead together.

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Caste-based census demand

Urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to release the 2011 census’ caste-based OBC categorisation data in the public domain and to provide reservation based on population, he also demanded that the 50 per cent cap on reservation be removed.

“Modi only speaks about OBCs, but will not release the data. Modi only wants OBC votes… But Congress soon after coming to power will do it,” he said, adding that the Congress truly wanted to give strength to OBCs both politically and economically.

“If you can’t do it, quit, we will do it… Until we (Congress) come to power, we will put all the required pressure on the Modi government with our OBC and reservation-related demands,” he added

Basavanna’s karma bhoomi

“Bidar is Basavanna’s karma bhoomi. If someone first spoke about democracy and showed the path towards democracy, it was Basavanna. It is sad that today across the country, people from RSS and BJP are attacking democracy,” Gandhi said.

“They are spreading hatred and violence in Hindustan, and they are taking away money from poor and weaker sections of people and giving it to two or three rich people,” he added.

Expressing confidence that the Congress would win the May 10 Assembly polls in Karnataka with absolute majority, bagging at least 150 of the total 224 seats, he urged the people to ensure that this happened so that the ruling BJP would not resort to “buying” MLAs after the polls, to “manufacture the mandate in its favour, by using the money it has earned through corruption while in power”.

Rahul Gandhi said the BJP, which ran a “40 per cent commission government”, would not get even 40 seats in the elections.

AICC general secretaries K C Venugopal and Randeep Singh Surjewala (in-charge of Karnataka), KPCC working president and candidate from Bhalki Assembly seat Eshwar Khandre were among those present, while at the Humnabad public meeting they were joined by incumbent MLA and candidate Rajashekar B Patil.

Congress promises

The Congress has announced four poll guarantees — 200 units of free power for all households (Gruha Jyoti); Rs 2,000 monthly assistance for the woman head of every family (Gruha Lakshmi); 10 kg of rice free to every member of a BPL household (Anna Bhagya); and, Rs 3,000 every month for graduate youth and Rs 1,500 for diploma holders (both in the age group of 18-25) for two years (YuvaNidhi) — on coming to power in the state.

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He said the Congress would not make “false promises” like Prime Minister Modi did such as depositing Rs 15 lakh in every bank account, creation of jobs, and war against black money, among others. The Congress would fulfill its promises immediately after coming to power, he assured the crowd.

“Whoever becomes the Chief Minister of Karnataka, will convert guarantees into law, on the first day after coming to power,” he added.

Claiming credit on behalf of Congress for implementing Article 371(J), which grants special status to six backward districts of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region (renamed as Kalyana Karnataka) including Bidar, Gandhi said, it had helped lakhs of people and it showed that his party always walked the talk.

“Our poll guarantees will help Karnataka’s poor, farmers, small traders and those in need, and not (just) two-to-three super rich like Adani,” he said.

Adani issue

Stating that he had raised questions on BJPs “corruption” in Parliament, Gandhi said he only asked Modi what was his relationship was with Adani that he had given India’s ports, airports and complete resources to one person; but following this questioning, he was disqualified as an MP.

“I asked what and why it was done. Also, I asked Rs 20,000 crore that are in Adani’s shell companies is whose money,” he said, alleging that for this his microphones were switched off in Parliament and he was not allowed to speak.

“Later, I was disqualified from Lok Sabha. They are so scared about me questioning them about corruption in Parliament that they have removed me from Parliament,” he added.

Charges of corruption

Accusing the BJP government in Karnataka of rampant corruption and collecting “40 per cent commission” from contractors, Gandhi said when the contractor’s association wrote a letter in this regard to PM Modi, who makes speeches against corruption, there was no answer to it so far.

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Listing out the alleged corruption scandals in the state such as those relating to Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited, and to the jobs and PSI recruitment scams, he said the PM “says in speeches that he is against corruption”, but is “quiet” on what is happening in Karnataka.

“They (BJP govt) are taking 40 per cent commission. Give them (only) 40 seats this time,” he said.

(With Agency inputs)