Chhattisgarh sees caste census politics in full play; Cong drives narrative

In the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections, the caste census is becoming a dominant factor. — IANS

Sundeep Pouranik

Raipur, Oct 15 (IANS) In the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections, the caste census is becoming a dominant factor. One of the major reasons for this is the diversity of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other Backward Classes in the state.

Both the Congress and the BJP are trying to entice their reserved categories and portraying themselves as well-wishers of these classes.

Reservation has been a significant issue in the state’s politics, and after the caste census issue came to the fore, it has gained even more prominence. 

After the caste-based surveys in Bihar and the subsequent release of the results, this political issue has gained momentum in other states, and Chhattisgarh is no exception.

Considering the population of the state’s Backward Classes, Scheduled Tribes, and Scheduled Castes, the Congress has announced its intention to conduct a caste census upon coming to power. 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has said that a caste-based census is like an X-ray that will detect the problems of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Dalits and tribals in the country and how much representation they should get.

Leaders from the Congress, including Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and other party members, have been vocal in their support of the caste census, emphasising its importance.

 However, the BJP has not openly expressed its stance on this matter.

Baghel has launched several attacks on the BJP regarding the caste census, highlighting that more than 43 per cent of the state’s population belongs to the OBC category, as revealed in the economic survey conducted by his government. 

Baghel said, β€œThe BJP is against reservation. When the court asked on what basis the state government provided 27 per cent reservation to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs)….then a headcount was conducted for the OBCs and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).’In the headcount, it was found that there are 43.5 per cent OBCs and 3.5 per cent EWS in the state, based on which reservation was provided for them. Does the BJP not believe that there are more than 43 per cent OBCs in the state? If they do not believe it, then why don’t they conduct the 2021 census?”

A BJP leader during a discussion said that the party considers the interests of every category. This could be inferred from the list of candidates announced by the BJP for the upcoming assembly elections. 

He said: “Among the 85 candidates declared by the party for general seats, a substantial number belong to the OBC category. For the unreserved seats, 29 candidates from the Backward Classes have been fielded.”

The caste census seems to be emerging as a significant issue in the state. Chhattisgarh has a large population of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Backward Classes, and it is through this segment that the path to power may lie.

Ever since the Congress came to power in the state, it has been consistently advocating reservations for the OBCs. The matter reached the Governor’s office and even went to the courts, while the BJP has remained on the back foot in this case.

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