‘Most in Cabinet for caste census’

The Centre is treading cautiously on four major issues — the Telangana state, women’s reservation in the Lok Sabha and state legislature, internal security, especially Maoist attacks, and caste-based census at a time when political parties across the country are divided on it.

Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal came out in support of a caste-based census, claiming “majority” in the Cabinet is in favour of it.
While national parties like the Congress and the BJP are singing different tunes on it contrary to their stand in the Lok Sabha on this issue, their allies in the UPA and NDA are not as assertive as the Mandalites parties are. NDA constituent Janata Dal (United) is fighting the battle for caste headcount along with the Samjawadi Party and the RJD but the Shiv Sena is vehemently opposing it.
On the other hand, UPA partners Trinamul Congress, NCP and the National Conference are yet to sharpen their positions in the changing situation. Though the Congress managers might be trying to restrain the party leaders and ministers from airing their views publicly on this sensitive issue, insiders feel that the census needs to be discussed at greater length. Disagreeing with some of his colleagues on the issue of including caste in the census, Mr Bansal on Sunday dismissed claims that the move was regressive and an “insidious” one and asserted that the majority in the Cabinet was in its favour.
Mr Bansal, who has been playing a role of the chief coordinator and floor manager in the capacity of parliamentary affairs minister, also dismissed suggestions that the issue was in a way “Mandal II”. He said there need not be any apprehension that the demand would lead to a division in society.
Making a strong pitch for its inclusion, Mr Bansal told PTI in an interview that there was a “preponderant view” during debate in the Lok Sabha that it should be included in the census and a “larger number of people” in the Union Cabinet wanted it. “There is nothing insidious or invidious in it and it is not a regressive one,” he said, dubbing moves opposing the inclusion of caste “all idealism and utopia”.
Noting that caste is a reality, he said there should be a relentless fight against casteism, but “you cannot banish casteism by not counting”.
Mr Bansal’s statement was diametrically opposite to the one by minister of state for home affairs Ajay Maken, who wrote to young MPs urging them to oppose the “regressive” move that was being pushed as part of “divisive agenda for short-term political gain”.
He also praised the Samajwadi Party, the BSP and the RJD — the three outside supporters together having 46 members — for not supporting the BJP’s “game of destabilisation” that could have forced another elections and voting in favour of stability.

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