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Chhattisgarh sees caste census politics in full play, Congress drives narrative
Reservation has been a significant issue in the state's politics, and after the caste census issue came to the fore, it has gained even more prominence
The caste census seems to be developing into a dominant factor in the impending Chhattisgarh assembly elections, scheduled for 7 and 17 November. One of the major reasons for this is the diversity of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the state.
Both the Congress and the BJP are seeking to appeal to their reserved categories and positioning themselves as well-wishers of these classes.
Reservation has been a significant issue in the state's politics, and has gained in prominence since the caste census issue came to the fore. Following the caste-based survey in Bihar and the subsequent release of the results, this political issue has gained momentum in other states, and Chhattisgarh is no exception.
Considering the population of the state's SCs, STs, and OBCs, the Congress has announced its intention to conduct a caste census upon coming to power.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has said a caste-based census is like an X-ray that will detect the problems of the OBCs, Dalits and tribal populations in the country and how much representation they should get.
Leaders from the Congress, including chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and other party members, have been vocal in their support of the caste census, emphasising its importance. However, the BJP has not openly expressed its stance on this matter.
Baghel has launched several attacks on the BJP regarding the caste census, highlighting that more than 43 per cent of the state's population belongs to the OBC category, as revealed in the economic survey conducted by his government.
Baghel said, “The BJP is against reservation. When the court asked on what basis the state government provided 27 per cent reservation to OBCs.... a headcount was conducted for theOBCs and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS). In the headcount, it was found that there are 43.5 per cent OBCs and 3.5 per cent EWS in the state, based on which reservation was provided for them. Does the BJP not believe that there are more than 43 per cent OBCs in the state? If they do not believe it, then why don't they conduct the 2021 census?"
A BJP leader said during a discussion that the party considers the interests of every category. This could be inferred from the list of candidates announced by the BJP for the upcoming assembly elections. "Among the 85 candidates declared by the party for general seats, a substantial number belong to the OBC category. For the unreserved seats, 29 candidates from the Backward Classes have been fielded," he said.
Ever since the Congress came to power in the state, it has been consistently advocating reservations for OBCs. The matter reached the governor's office and even went to the courts, while the BJP has remained on the back foot in this case.