BJNY: Rahul Gandhi bats for caste census & representation
Massive audience in Purnea told the Mahagathbandhan will continue to fight for social justice in Bihar, even without chief minister Nitish Kumar
“Modi government is giving waivers to the industrialists but is not giving the same to farmers of the country," said Rahul Gandhi, addressing a large rally in Purnea, on today's Bihar leg of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.
"The government had brought three laws for the farmers to snatch their land. I have raised these points (in Parliament) but the media has been after me and the Congress," he added.
“I went to Bhatta Parsaul village in Uttar Pradesh a few years ago," said Gandhi, "and pointed out that the land of farmers was being captured by the government and given to the industrialists. Instead of talking against it, the media started accusing me.”
Earlier, Gandhi was seen in Araria district, where he visited a temple and also paid his respects to Mahatma Gandhi on his death anniversary at a makeshift altar setup.
Then, in Purnea, he attended the Kisan Chaupal in Sisabadi village and interacted with farmers.
The idea of the Nyay Yatra and its focus on ensuring justice for all, equally, is inspired by the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi, the official BJNY handle claimed in a post on X.
'They are trying to mow down this ideology. The Congress will stand there where they try to mow down the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi,' the Congress posted.
Congress party general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh, who is on the Nyay Yatra alongside Gandhi, said, "Those who have opposed Mahatma Gandhi in his entire life, refused his ideology and murdered him are now trying to grab his heritage. Those who are glorifying Nathuram Godse are not allowed to define the 'Idea of India'."
Gandhi also said Dalits and backward classes don't get due representation in all sectors of the country.
"Our country needs a caste-based census to determine the exact population of Dalits, OBCs, tribals and others," the Congress MP told the rally at Ranghbhumi Maidan.
Rahul Gandhi also asserted that the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar would continue undeterred in its fight for social justice in Bihar, notwithstanding chief minister Nitish Kumar's abandonment of the cause.
Gandhi ruefully stated that while the Mahagathbandhan's commitment would be unaffected by Kumar's exit, it was the BJP's 'pressure' tactics that led to his departure. He asserted that the Bihar chief minister had been reluctant to conduct the caste survey, and only went ahead with it on the insistent of the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). "The BJP does not want you to focus on social justice but wants to distract you,” he added.
"I will have no compromise over [the caste census]," said Rahul Gandhi. "If caste-based census is undertaken across the country, everything will become clear. People would come to know about the actual population of Dalit, OBC, EBC, tribal [people].
In Bihar, the Congress is part of the Mahagathbandhan which includes the RJD and Left parties as well, though chief minister Nitish Kumar recently stepped down, dissolving the government, and has formed a new government after returning to the NDA fold (which he dumped a mere 18 months ago) on Sunday, 28 January.
The Congress MP also commented on the situation in Manipur, where the Nyay Yatra began. He said that the north-eastern is experiencing an "atmosphere of civil war" and reminded his audience that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to visit the ethnic strife-torn state 9 months later. (Gandhi himself was there on his second visit since the ethnic conflicts commenced.)
AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge, who was scheduled to speak at the rally, could not reach Purnea, as his flight failed to land at the airport due to low visibility, Bihar Congress chief Akhilesh Prasad said. Kharge did, however, address the public virtually over a remote link.
Former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and CPI(ML)L general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya also addressed the gathering.
The 27-party opposition bloc of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) still includes the Congress, the All-Indian Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the CPI(ML)L, though presumably Nitish Kumar's JD(U) can now be counted out.
Yesterday, as the Nyay Yatra first entered Bihar, Gandhi and his Nyay Yoddhas were seen stopping to chat with truck drivers and greeting a family running a dhaba at one point during their padayatra, near Kishanganj.
Speaking at a gathering later in the day, in the Shaeed Ashfaq Ulla Khan Stadium in Kishanganj, Gandhi would remind his audience: "The whole country knows that the largest population in the country belongs to the OBC category. Approximately 50% of the population belongs to the OBC category. There are 15% Dalits, 12% Adivasis and around 15% minorities.
"I want to tell the OBCs here that 90 IAS officers run the government of India. Out of these 90 officers, only 3 are from the OBC category," Gandhi continued, "and if Rs 100 are distributed in the budget, only Rs 5 go to the officers from the OBC category. This is the truth, and this injustice is happening with the OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis. That is why we have decided to work for samajik nyay [social justice] in the most revolutionary way."
He would continue to sit with state Congress members, leaders and cadre working at the grassroots, especially representative of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), and heard from them the concerns of low-wage labourers—primary of these were the ask for a minimum wage stipulation and the rising cost of living.
Continuing on the padyatra part of his journey on Day 16 yesterday, Gandhi eventually had to give in and ride in an open-top car in Araria as the thronging crowds made it hard for him to actually make progress on foot.
Speaking to the supporters lining the roads, he spoke on 29 January too of the importance of the caste survey Bihar had already undertaken, showing the way for the nation. "It is like an X-ray of the country," he said, speaking of the caste census. "After the X-ray, the share of the backward, the share of the Dalits that is determined, the Congress Party is going to work towards ensuring that they get their share."
Tomorrow, 31 January, the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is back in West Bengal—in Malda and Murshidabad, specifically, before returning to Bihar again en route Jharkhand and Odisha.
With PTI and IANS inputs