Will conduct nationwide caste census, implement women's reservation if elected: Kharge at CWC meet

Kharge emphasised India's challenges such as inflation, unemployment, failure to implement the old pension scheme, and misuse of autonomous bodies against media

Mallikarjun Kharge (left) criticised PM Modi's policies for widening wealth gaps, endangering constitutional values and federal structures, and stoking social tension (photo: AICC)
Mallikarjun Kharge (left) criticised PM Modi's policies for widening wealth gaps, endangering constitutional values and federal structures, and stoking social tension (photo: AICC)

NH Political Bureau

In a significant announcement during a Congress working committee (CWC) meeting held in Delhi on Monday, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the party will implement women's reservation and conduct a nationwide caste census if voted to power in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Criticising PM Narendra Modi of not implementing the caste census immediately, Kharge said the PM could also have implemented the bill to reserve 33 per cent of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, but did not.

“The country is still wondering why the bill was not implemented immediately and why OBC women were excluded from the scope of the bill. Why were the clauses of census and delimitation added to complicate women’s reservation?” Kharge asked.

Sayingthat the women’s reservation bill was only brought "for marketing and vote-bank politics", Kharge added, “It is imperative that we take these concerns to the people and commit to promptly implementing women's reservation with a sub-quota for OBC women once we come to power in 2024."

He also emphasised the importance of conducting a nationwide caste-based census to better understand and address socio-economic disparities in India.

The meeting coincided with the announcement of assembly election dates in five states.

Highlighting the Congress party's consistent demand for a nation-wide caste census, Kharge pointed out that the demand had gained widespread public support, particularly following the Bihar government's release of a caste survey report.

“For proper implementation and delivery of government programmes and welfare schemes, it is important that we have scientific socio-economic data about marginalised sections including their numbers, representation, and economic and social condition. Thus, it becomes important that we deliberate upon the issue of caste-based census,” said Kharge.

Responding to allegations levelled by Modi and the BJP that the Congress had supported the bill under pressure, Kharge recalled, “As a matter of fact, it was Shri Rajiv Gandhi's vision that led to the amendment which aimed to provide 33 per cent reservation for women at in panchayats and urban local bodies. Thanks to this, the maximum number of elected women in the world are in India (around 14 lakh) today. So it was the Indian National Congress’ initiative which was the precursor to the present act."

Kharge also criticised other policies of the Modi government, alleging that they were increasing the divide between rich and poor, threatening constitutional values and the federal structure, and raising social tensions.

The Congress president appreciated the efforts of party MP Rahul Gandhi in reaching out to people from different strata across the country, including farmers, laborers, carpenters, railway porters, mechanics, and other marginalised sections of society.

In his concluding remarks, Kharge highlighted the challenges faced by the people of India, including inflation, unemployment, the government's failure to implement the old pension scheme, divisive tactics employed by the ruling party, and the misuse of autonomous bodies to suppress opposition parties and silence the media. He called for the establishment of a government that addresses these grave challenges and safeguards India's democratic stability.

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