When Rahul Gandhi Forgot His Promise of Not Playing Caste Card
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi wrapped up his month-long tour of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh on October 6. (FILE PHOTO: REUTERS)
New Delhi: I don’t believe in playing the caste card: This is what Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said just before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 when reporters asked him for his vision of politics for the party. “I want a new Congress which reflects the new India. To me, politics based on caste considerations doesn't make sense. I don't believe in playing the caste card," he had said.
More than two years later, his party has gone back on what Rahul had promised.
At a press conference on Saturday, the party’s UP state in-charge, Ghulam Nabi Azad, promised a quota for OBCs if the Congress won the Assembly elections due in the state next year. The press meet was also attended by state Congress chief Raj Babbar.
That the announcement had Rahul's backing is clear by the fact that it was preceded by a meeting of the Congress V-P with a few OBC leaders.
Sitting next to Azad at Saturday's press meet was Ram Pal, a prominent leader belonging to the Backward Caste.
That Rahul's words have been forgotten is clear now especially with the coming in of Prashant Kishor, who has made it clear that the Congress would have to get its caste combinations right to be in the reckoning in the politically significant state.
Actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar was chosen as state chief as he belongs to the Sonar community, which is listed among the OBCs in Uttar Pradesh. Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit was made the chief ministerial candidate as she is a Brahmin and Congress wants to woo the upper castes in the state.
In fact, the appointment of Ram Pal, Bhagwati Prasad Chowdhary, Imran Masood and Rajesh Mishra as star deputies is very clearly an attempt to get the caste and religion combinations right.
So where is the development card, especially since the BJP is cleverly talking about development to camouflage its attempts at caste and social engineering.
Azad told News 18 that the call for waiver of farm loans and quota for OBCs points to its development agenda. “This is our development card,” he said.
As per the 2001 Census, the OBCs account for around 40% of the state’s vote bank, and the Congress wants a slice of it.
According to sources, a reluctant Rahul Gandhi was convinced at several rounds of strategy meetings that a bit of caste card would have to be played. He was told that unless the Congress improves its performance in UP, any chance of its revival would fade away.
But some within the party feel the Congress shouldn't move too far away from it core belief that it won't play the overt caste card. If it does, it would lose its traditional vote bank as well the targeted ones. Or as they say: Na maya mili, na Ram (Neither found money, nor god).