» News » Sonia douses quota fire, but damage may be done

Sonia douses quota fire, but damage may be done

By Renu Mittal
February 05, 2014 22:50 IST
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Congress leaders say that controversies like the one triggered by Janardhan Dwivedi could be damaging for the party in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election.’s Renu Mittal reports from New Delhi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has issued a strong contradiction rebutting All India Congress Committee general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi’s pitch to end caste-based reservations after Opposition parties put the government on the mat in Parliament on the issue.

Sonia issued a statement late Wednesday evening where she categorically said that the process of reservations for the scheduled castes, tribes and backward classes had been initiated by the Congress party and there was no question of going back on it.

It may be recalled that Dwivedi had on Tuesday called for an end to reservation on caste lines and urged the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to introduce quota for economically weaker sections bringing all communities under its ambit.

"This (reservation on caste lines) should have come to an end. Why it did not happen so far was because vested interests got into the process. Does the real needy person even among the Dalits and backward castes get the benefits of reservation? Those in the upper crust of these communities only avail the benefits. There is a difference between social justice and casteism.

"The concept of social justice has now turned into casteism...I believe there is a need to dismantle this... Since Rahul is seeking views of people directly for the party manifesto, I am now urging him that he should take a bold decision," Dwivedi had said.

He had reportedly also said, "Reservation on the basis of economic condition of people should be talked about. He is the future leader of Congress. Only one, who rises above all this and breaks the boundaries of caste and communalism will be the future leader of the country. Only then a society on the basis of equality can be built".

In the media briefing on Wednesday, Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala made it clear that Janardhan Dwivedi’s views were his personal ones and that the “Congress stands by its stated position on reservation”.

He said that “economic reservation is not conceived in our constitutional scheme of things”.

It is learnt that in the morning an angry Sonia called Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajeev Shukla and asked him to give a clarification in the Rajya Sabha on Dwivedi’s statement.

Shukla told the Upper House that they were Dwivedi’s personal views and the government and the Congress had nothing to do with it. But dissatisfied Bahujan Samaj Party members trooped into the well of the House, forcing an adjournment.

Keeping the focus on Dwivedi’s long association and closeness with both Rajiv and Sonia, the BJP has said that his utterances were a trial balloon and that the Congress leadership was considering doing away with reservation.

Congress leaders say that in the midst of an election, such a statement has been badly damaging for the party and has added to the confusion.

The opposition, especially the BJP, and leaders like BSP chief Mayawati could use this controversy to showcase the Congress as a party which does not want Dalits, tribals and the backward classes to benefit.

It may be remembered that Rajiv was a strong anti-mandal (the commission set up in 1979 to consider the question of seat reservations and quotas for people to redress caste discrimination, and used eleven social, economic, and educational indicators to determine backwardness) votary and gave a long speech in Parliament against it. He even brought a CWC resolution against reservation.

Since then the Congress has not been able to regain the support of the backward classes and the Dalits. It was not seen as a party which these communities could trust, a Congress leader said.

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