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Can Rahul’s OBC Push Pull Votes for Congress, as It Hunts for Winnable Candidates in Poll-bound States? – News18


History has shown that the Congress’s experiments with caste politics have not always met with success. (File photo/PTI)

With Rahul Gandhi batting for a nationwide caste census, the Congress would need to walk the talk and ensure it gives the most election tickets to candidates from the OBC and other disadvantaged groups

Rahul Gandhi’s OBC fixation has now put the Congress in a spot, especially in poll-bound states. While his push for a nationwide caste census means the party would need to walk the talk and ensure it gives the most election tickets to candidates from the Other Backward Class (OBC) and other disadvantaged groups, it also has raised a question– would they be winnable?

There is no denying that it’s “do or die” for the Congress in these state polls as it feels a win here could raise its chips in 2024. But history has shown that the Congress’s experiments with caste politics have not always met with success.

In the previous Telangana polls, the party gave tickets to the Reddy community and OBCs, but both failed to make the cut. The state has a nearly 50% OBC population and the last time the Congress gave tickets to 24 candidates from the community for the assembly polls. But now the Telangana OBC political affairs unit in a meeting with the top Congress leadership has conveyed that the party must practice what it preaches.

“If Rahul Gandhiji is talking about OBC reservation then he should give tickets to at least 50% of them. But the worry is that can they win? Where will the Congress get those winnable candidates from?” said a party insider.

Ponnam Prabhakar, an OBC leader and working president of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee, told News18, “Things are changing and we think this time the Congress must increase the number of tickets being given to OBCs. Rahulji has given support to the OBCs.”

However, sources say not many leaders are in agreement. While Abhishek Singhvi has been openly sceptical of this OBC push, though he had to retract a comment on the issue, in private, many like the Reddy community and upper caste leaders in the Congress are worried. They have pointed out that the BJP has done well among the OBCs and to completely turn that around just ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections may not be easy.

In Madhya Pradesh, the OBCs have the potential to impact the upcoming assembly polls. They constitute about 48% of the electorate in the state and the BJP has a head start with this critical vote bank. The community is unlikely to forget that in the previous polls, the Congress had given just 2% of tickets to the OBCs. As the BJP decided to woo the tribal votes, the OBCs in the state began to feel restive over the assurance of a 27% quota in government jobs from the party. The fact that the Congress has now walked into this debate with a promise has the BJP restless.

More than half of Rajasthan’s population is OBC. While chief minister Ashok Gehlot belongs to the Mali community, it has little sway in the state. Jats, who come under the OBC umbrella, are an influential group here. And they have been voting for the BJP. Gehlot has been making several efforts to reach out to the Jats and many poll tickets have been promised to them this time. But the Jats never vote en bloc, so it has raised questions on whether it would help the Congress to give this Jat-OBC push in ticket distribution.

Gehlot appointed a Jat, Govind Singh Dotasra, as the state Congress chief, and the BJP then made Satish Poonia the head of its local unit to counter this. In the previous polls, the Congress had given about 10% of tickets to OBC candidates. This time, Rahul Gandhi’s wish is to hike the number. But it is an election, where the Congress is not confident and is unwilling to take any risks. But will Rahul Gandhi listen?

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