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2024 Lok Sabha Polls

Top Opposition leaders make strong pitch for caste census at DMK conference, call for unity to take on BJP

NEW DELHI: Top Opposition leaders, including chief ministers of three states, on Monday strongly pitched for a caste census at a DMK-convened conference on social justice which also saw fervent calls for forging unity to take on the BJP, setting aside egos, in the run-up to the 2024 general election.

The conference was seen by many as a show of strength by the Opposition with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, his Jharkhand counterpart Hemant Soren and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav joining in to raise their voice against oppression of backward classes.

The Opposition parties attacking the BJP-led government from one platform assumes significance as it comes at a time of renewed unity among them in the wake of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha after being convicted in a 2019 defamation case.

The meeting saw a chorus from Opposition leaders demanding a caste census, with RJD leader Yadav making a strong case for caste census, citing that the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ government in Bihar has already announced a caste-based survey which has begun.

He said it was a concern that when governments in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand want to provide more reservation for OBCs, the governors stalled it.

”This is done at the behest of whom, everyone knows,” Yadav said.

He urged the Opposition parties to come together setting aside their egos and said the best way to beat the BJP’s politics of ‘polarisation’ was through social justice-based politics.

Manoj Jha, also of the RJD, went to the extent of calling for a boycott of the census, if there is no caste census. ”We should give a call — no census, if no caste census,” he said.

In his remarks, Gehlot pitched for social security for all and said he has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking social security for families according to their needs. He said like-minded parties should come forward to push for the caste-based census and urged CMs of Opposition-ruled states to put pressure on the Centre for it.

Former Union minister and senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily asserted that the Congress was with other parties in the movement for social justice.

The Opposition parties came together for the hybrid-mode first conference of the All India Federation for Social Justice, a brainchild of Stalin, on the theme ”Taking Forward the Struggle for Social Justice and Joint National Programme for Social Justice Movement”.

Asserting that parties must not shy away from accepting that such platforms are political, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien said there are still some parties that do not want to fight the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and asserted that it is not the time to remain in the grey, but it is time to be either white or black.

He called on Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik to join efforts to take on the current government.

In an apparent swipe at Modi, Jharkhand Chief Minister Soren said while this government came on the promise of ”na khaunga na khane dunga (will neither indulge in corruption nor let others do it)”, it has become a government of ”na kuch karunga na karne dunga (will neither do any work nor let others do it)”.

He said in any given institution in this country, backward classes had negligible presence. ”If we do not take concrete steps now, then the coming generations will suffer a lot of pain,” Soren said.

Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh also called for a caste census and alleged that the BJP is running away from it because it’s ideological mentor RSS wants the ‘varna system’ to continue.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said while reservation for the backward classes is a significant step to open windows of opportunity for them, it has to be accompanied by economic development.

”Economic development cannot be restricted to a few. Over the last two years, 40.5 per cent of wealth generated has been cornered by one per cent of population. We have to fight the corporate communal nexus,” he said.

CPI general secretary D Raja also strongly pitched for the caste census and called for reservation in the private sector.

Samajwadi Party president and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said till there is no social justice, there will be no economic equality. ”Everyone has the right to equal opportunities and to live with dignity. It is necessary that we come together to fight for social justice,” he said.

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said if a future of India is to be envisioned, then people, irrespective of their caste, class, religion and creed, have to be taken along.

Some leaders, including Nationalist Congress Party’s Chhagan Bhujbal, slammed the BJP for ”wrongly” claiming that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi insulted OBCs with his ”Modi surname” remark in 2019 for which he has been convicted for criminal defamation.

The parties represented at the conference were the DMK, Congress, JMM, RJD, TMC, AAP, CPI, CPI(M), Samajwadi Party, National Conference, NCP, IUML, Bharat Rashtra Samithi, MDMK, Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, Loktantra Suraksha Party, VCK, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi and Dravidar Kazhagam.

Three parties which did not attend the conference were Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction), YSR Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal.


Source: Press Trust of India

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