Last Updated: October 04, 2023, 15:27 IST
Rahul Gandhi has advocated for a caste census and floated the slogan ‘jitni aabadi, utna haq’ but his late father and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Parliament in 1990 had advocated for a “casteless society” and even accused then Premier VP Singh of trying to lead the country into caste wars with the Mandal Commission report.
This perhaps explains the contrast in the Congress approach to the issue of caste-based politics over the years, with Rahul Gandhi now taking a turn towards a second edition of Mandal politics of the 1990s to counter Narendra Modi, while his father and grand-mother took a different approach. “If you think back, it was in 1980 that the Congress under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, had raised the slogan ‘Na jaat par, na patt par’ (not on caste or creed),” Rajiv Gandhi said in a speech in the Lok Sabha on September 6, 1990. The VP Singh government had accused Congress PMs of sitting on the report.
News18 reviewed the speech which saw Rajiv Gandhi, then the Leader of the Opposition, have sharp exchanges with VP Singh as the latter was pushing ahead with the Mandal Commission report. “It is extremely sad that the thinking in this government revolves around caste…VP Singh is causing rift in our society,” Rajiv Gandhi said. He said the “goal of the country must be a casteless society” and one you must avoid taking any step which takes the country towards a caste-ridden society. “Nobody in this House will say that the removal of casteism is not part of that national goal,” he said.
Caste Census Breaking Up India: Rajiv Gandhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has warned that talking about a caste census amounts to dividing the people and the country. Rajiv Gandhi in his 1990 speech in Parliament had similar views about the Mandal Commission report. “…the manner in which you have implemented the Mandal Commission, to me, it is breaking up my country. Even at this late hour, there is time to pull the country back from this caste division,” Rajiv Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha. He said the VP Singh government was creating a “vested interest in casteism and the country is going to pay a very heavy price for this”, the records show.
Rajiv Gandhi also asked why the government was accepting caste as the sole identifier. He said to remove backwardness and poverty, one has to look at the root of the problem and give equal opportunity. “We, the Congress, are in favour of a comprehensive action plan, an affirmative action plan for the backward communities. We need that. The problem cannot be solved by playing politics or by limited politically motivated manipulations,” Rajiv Gandhi said. He said the reality is that caste counts for a tremendous amount in this country. “But what is our goal? Is our goal a casteless society?” the then LoP said in Lok Sabha.
Rajiv’s Dare to VP Singh
Rajiv Gandhi in this debate she personally believed in a casteless society as the goal for a developing nation like India. “The PM does not have the guts to stand up and say whether he believes in a casteless society or does not believe in casteless society. It is very sad, sir,” Rajiv Gandhi said. He further said not let one man’s obstinacy lead to a caste war in India.
“Socially and socially and educationally backward classes need all the help they can get including reservation and the Congress will support you in that. We would like that to be targeted to the poorest and the weakest in the socially and educationally backward classes this the Congress Party has outlined in the Working Committee’s Resolution on August 30 this year,” Rajiv Gandhi said in conclusion of speech.