Congress leader Rahul Gandhi demanded to remove the 50 per cent cap on reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes during an election campaign speech in Karnataka.
Gandhi was speaking in Kolar district, a mining region in Karnataka where he made the "Modi surname" comment in 2019 that led to his conviction in a defamation case last month.
Gandhi challenged the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to release the caste census data initiated by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2011, as per an NDTV report. The data will provide evidence if Other Backward Classes (OBC), Dalits, and Adivasis don't have enough representation in the country's politics proportionate to their population, Gandhi remarked.
"When we talk about Dalits, OBC, the people of India, what is the biggest question? The biggest question is which section has the highest population. If you see the number of secretaries in the government, only 7 per cent are OBC, Adivasis and Dalits. The question is what is the population of OBC, Adivasis, and Dalits in the country before you talk about the distribution of wealth and political representation," Gandhi said at the Kolar rally.
"The UPA government started caste-based census in 2011... It is important to know the population of every section to determine their political representation if you want to take everyone along on the path to development," he said, adding to remove the 50 per cent cap on reservation for SC/ST and kept proportionate to their population.
The BJP government has made its stance clear of not wanting a caste-based census. Earlier in 2021, it told the Supreme Court that such a census would be "administratively difficult and cumbersome" and that it was a "conscious policy decision" to exclude such information from the census purview.
Gandhi's demand to breach the 50 per cent reservation cap, however, is an affirmation of the united stand taken by other opposition parties such as Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and the DMK. Tamil Nadu had already breached this ceiling in the 90s, the report said.
The BJP government in Karnataka, too, had passed a resolution to increase the quota and bring it under the 9th Schedule of the Constitution so that it is not subject to legal scrutiny.
"Modi ji, you should release the data of the caste census. Everything will become clear after that. If you don't do this, it is injustice to the OBC. You talk about the welfare of OBC, so show the nation how many of them are in the population and then explain why only 7 per cent of secretaries in your government are OBC, Adivasis, and Dalits," Gandhi further said.
"The second important thing is the quota for SC/ST should be made proportional to their population. Third, the 50 per cent cap that you have put on reservation should be removed. Then let's talk who is doing great injustice to OBC," said the former MP who was disqualified from the Lok Sabha after his conviction in the "Modi surname" defamation case.
Karnataka is geared up to go to polls on the 10th of May. Votes will be counted three days later.