AA Edit | Caste census to address inequity

Bihar case census found out that 84 per cent of its population belongs to the backwards classes.

The decision of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Monday to hold a nationwide caste census if it comes to power in states and at the centre marks the first move the grand old party has made in the election season which will see new assemblies in five states, and a new Lok Sabha. The party has also promised the immediate implementation of 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies with a special quota for women belonging to the OBC community.

It was Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin who first created a social justice platform for the opposition parties to board in the race against the Hindutva-powered BJP and the NDA it leads. The INDIA bloc which was later formed has among them differences of opinion on a lot many factors but social justice is the single point agenda on which all of them can agree.

The call for a caste census to have a data-based understanding of the demographic structure has gained traction after the results of such an exercise in Bihar found out that 84 per cent of its population belongs to the backwards classes. The discovery that there is a huge mismatch between representation and share in population has the Congress throwing its weight behind the slogan, saying 'jitni abadi utna haq' (greater population, greater right).

The Congress and the other opposition parties must ignore the attempts to give the slogan a weird interpretation that it is a ploy to promote majoritarian politics, and must work towards creating a larger consensus on it instead. An electoral democracy that works on the principle of representation will make more sense when it is more inclusive. However, inclusion does not happen on its own in a society beset with inequalities which have a history of thousands of years; it takes deliberate and forceful attempts. It is not just an electoral plank; it is a potential tool to make our society more just.

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