Rahul Gandhi counters Modi on Congress manifesto; says caste census is his life's mission

'In your life's mission, you do not make any compromises'

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi | PTI Congress leader Rahul Gandhi | PTI

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, on Wednesday, made a forceful counter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attacks on the party's Lok Sabha manifesto with regard to social and economic inequity, declaring that it is his life's mission and not a political issue that a caste census is conducted and the underprivileged sections such as the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Castes that form 90 per cent of the country's population get their due.

Gandhi's comments assume significance since they come in the backdrop of the prime minister attacking the Congress over its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections in his poll speeches, especially with regard to the party's pledges that deal with social and economic inequalities.

“It (social justice) is not a political issue for me anymore. It is my life's mission. In your life's mission, you do not make any compromises. In politics, you may make compromises,” Gandhi said addressing Samajik Nyay Sammelan organised by Samruddha Bharat Foundation, in the national capital.

The former Congress chief said if his party comes to power, the first decision of the government would be to order a caste census.

Gandhi described the Congress' manifesto as 'krantikari' (revolutionary), and took a jibe at the prime minister, saying he was in a state of panic. He said the manifesto contained revolutionary ideas such as the caste census and steps that need to be taken to deal with income inequality.

“No more than 22 people have benefited from government concessions to the tune of Rs 16 lakh crore. We will transfer some of this money to the 90 per cent population. We have made some calculations regarding this,” he said.

“Frankly, I am not interested in caste. I am interested in Nyay (justice). Today, in India, 90 per cent of the population faces grave injustice. So far, we have not even said anything about what action we will take. We have only said let us find out how much injustice is happening. No one should object to that. I only said we need to do an X-ray to find out the socioeconomic condition of the people belonging to various castes. But they (BJP) described it as an effort to divide the country,” he said.

“We are not saying businesses should not be helped. But the vast majority of people should also be helped,” he said.

He said since the critics call themselves “deshbhakts”, he fails to understand how they could be opposed to a caste census. “If you want to become a superpower and compete with China, you will have to use 90 per cent of your power. They call themselves deshbhakts but are afraid of the X-ray,” he said.

He said no Dalit, tribal or OBC person was visible either at the opening of the Ram Temple or the inauguration of the new Parliament building.

Gandhi observed that the prime minister has been saying for the past ten years that he is an OBC, but he now says in the backdrop of the discussion on caste census that he has no caste.

The Congress leader also said he does not like the word 'backward', and it has to be replaced with some other term. He said the proposed caste census will not be a mere caste count but will be an economic and institutional survey. “The country will know how many people from the various castes have representation in the institutions. It will be a national X-ray,” he said.

Gandhi further talked about his opponents trying to project him as a non-serious politician. “Land acquisition bill, MGNREGA, Bhatta Parsaul, Niyamgiri, was all that non-serious? Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Virat Kohli, are these serious issues?” he said.

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