If voted to power, INDIA bloc will remove 50 per cent cap on reservation: Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi with Kalpana Soren, wife of former Jharkhand CM and JMM leader Hemant Soren, during a meeting, in Jharkhand.
Rahul Gandhi with Kalpana Soren, wife of former Jharkhand CM and JMM leader Hemant Soren, during a meeting, in Jharkhand.

Ranchi | Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday promised a nationwide caste census and removal of the 50 per cent cap on reservation if the INDIA bloc forms the government at the Centre after the Lok Sabha polls.

Gandhi also launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying when the demand for caste census was raised and the time came to give rights to OBCs, Dalits and tribals, the PM stated there are no castes, but when it is time to get votes, he says he is an OBC.

He also alleged that the BJP tried to topple the JMM-Congress-RJD government in Jharkhand as the chief minister was a tribal.

"Want to congratulate all alliance MLAs, (Champai) Soren ji as that they stopped the BJP-RSS conspiracy and protected the government of the poor," Gandhi said at a rally at the Shaheed Maidan held here during his Manipur-to-Maharashtra Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.

Gandhi claimed that Dalits, tribals, and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) were made bonded labourers and their participation was lacking in big companies, hospitals, schools, colleges and courts.

"This is the biggest question before India. Our first step would be to get a caste census in the country," the former Congress chief said.

Noting that more than 50 per cent reservation cannot be given under existing provisions, Gandhi promised that an Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) government would "throw out" the 50 per cent cap on reservation.

"There will be no reduction in the reservation of Dalits and Adivasis. I am giving you a guarantee that the backward sections of society will get their rights. This is the biggest issue - social and economic injustice," Gandhi said.

He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi used to say that he is an OBC but when the demand for a caste census was made, he stated that there are only two castes -- the rich and the poor.

"When the time came to give rights to OBCs, Dalits, tribals, Modi ji says there are no castes, and when it is time to get votes, he says he is an OBC," Gandhi claimed.

Slamming the BJP soon after the Champai Soren-led government won the trust vote in the Jharkhand assembly, Gandhi alleged that the BJP tried to remove the government as it cannot accept a tribal CM.

"The Congress and the JMM stood against them together and the government was saved. They do this in all opposition-ruled states through probe agencies and money power.

"They are attacking democracy and the Constitution and want to suppress the voice of the people. The INDIA coalition will not let the voice of democracy be suppressed," the Congress leader, who also met Kalpana Soren, the wife of former chief minister Hemant Soren, said.

Gandhi also came down heavily on the Modi government over what he said was an attempt to privatise Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) in order to benefit its "crony capitalist friends".

"Narendra Modi and his government are slowly killing the PSUs... The central government wants the Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited (HEC Limited) to not function, and in the coming days, they will replace the name HEC with an Adani nameplate.

"They want to privatise it... Wherever I go, I see people of PSUs standing with posters in their hands. Be it BHEL, HAL, or HEC, all are being slowly handed over to Adani," Gandhi alleged.

He asserted that the Congress will not allow such privatisation.

"I say to the people of the BJP do whatever you want to do, we will not let Adani's name be stuck over HEC. We will not allow Adani to be given this free gift...When our government comes you will be given all support and made competitive," Gandhi said.

Gandhi alleged that the Centre was throttling all the PSUs in order to benefit Adani. This privatisation is an attempt to "steal" from Dalits, OBCs, tribals, minorities and poor general caste, he said.

Raising the pitch over the caste census issue, Gandhi asked the crowd at the rally if anyone knew the number of Dalits, tribals and OBCs.

"No one can give a number... In the country there are at least 50 per cent OBCs," he said.

Gandhi also said that Telangana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy had told him that his government had fulfilled the promise of a caste survey made to the people of that state.

In a few months, Dalits, OBCs, tribals, minorities and general caste poor will get to know their numbers, Gandhi said.

He said that out of the 90 secretaries running the government, only three are from the OBC category.

Gandhi claimed that there was "massive" unemployment in the country and small and medium enterprises had been "destroyed" due to demonetisation.

"PM Modi lied and said 'I am fighting against black money' and then carried out demonetisation, then implemented GST. The Indian youth cannot get jobs in such a scenario," the Congress leader said.

Gandhi alleged that the BJP-RSS make people of different religions and languages fight and "then take their money and hand it to billionaire Gautam Adani".

The rally took place in Shaheed Maidan which is a part of the HEC complex and the Congress general secretary alleged that the Modi government has attempted to sell HEC itself.

In his speech, Gandhi raised the issue of privatisation because it is one of the most glaring injustices experienced by the people of Jharkhand, Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh said.

The Yatra will stop at Khunti tonight, and on Tuesday morning, it will start again and travel through Gumla district before entering Odisha. The Yatra will return to Jharkhand on February 14 and 15.

The Yatra is scheduled to cover 6,713 km, passing through 15 states, before culminating in Mumbai on March 20.

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