Congress frowns upon Maken’s letter opposing caste census

New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) The Congress Friday expressed disapproval of Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken urging young members of parliament in a letter to oppose demands for inclusion of caste in the census.

‘No one who is sitting in a responsible position in the government should make such a statement,’ Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, who heads the party’s media department, told reporters here.

Terming Maken’s views ‘his personal opinion’, Dwivedi said he should have avoided writing a letter on an issue which is being deliberated by a group of ministers, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

In his letter Thursday, Maken said ‘regression into the realm of caste as political agenda for the next decades will be disastrous’ for political practitioners like him and detrimental for all parties with a developmental agenda. His letter is posted on his blog ‘ajaymakenthoughts.blogspot.com’.

Congress leaders said that Maken should not have aired his views publicly and should have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Mukherjee.

They said there were divergent views among political parties on the issue and there was a difference of opinion even within parties. ‘That’s why it was decided to refer the issue to a group of ministers,’ a Congress leader said.

Party leaders said Maken may have tried to derive ‘personal political mileage’ by writing a letter on the issue.

In his letter to the young MPs, Maken said he was writing as a fellow MP rather than as a junior minister in the home ministry which is going to carry out census operations through the Registrar General of India.

‘This is with regards to the ongoing discourse about inclusion of caste, specifically OBCs (other backward classes) as an identity parameter in the ongoing census exercise. It may be acknowledged and appreciated that we, as the younger lot, have to practice politics and governance for at least the next 15-20 years. Accordingly, it is on our shoulders that the responsibility of identifying and establishing the National Political Agenda for Governance for the next decades lies the most,’ he said.

Citing Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Ram Manohar Lohia, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he said these leaders never advocated caste-based census and their goal was economic betterment, political empowerment and social justice to be achieved through inclusive development.

‘If we were to accept the proposal to accept caste as a parameter in the census, we would, for at least the next 10-20 years, institutionalise caste rather than development as the national political agenda,’ he said.

Maken said one of the fallouts of a caste-based census would be demands from communities for their categorisation as OBCs.