In a series of election rallies in Chhattisgarh, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi unveiled a set of promises aimed at benefiting the people of the state. If his party retains power, he pledged to provide free education in government schools and colleges, as well as an annual grant of Rs 4,000 for ‘tendu’ leaves collectors. He also criticized the BJP-led Centre on various issues, most notably its reluctance to conduct a caste census.
Addressing enthusiastic crowds in Bhanupratappur and Farsgaon towns, located in the Naxal-affected Bastar division, Gandhi raised a pertinent question. He asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who often mentions ‘OBC’ (other backward class) in his speeches, appears hesitant to initiate a caste census.
Gandhi made it clear that if the Congress takes the reins of power at the Centre, a caste census will be conducted across the country. These promises were made in the context of the upcoming Chhattisgarh elections.
The Bhanupratappur assembly seat is situated in the Kanker district, while Farsgaon is part of the Kondagaon constituency in the neighboring Kondagaon district. Both seats are among the 20 constituencies that will go to the polls on November 7, marking the first phase of the Chhattisgarh elections, with the second phase set for November 17.
Gandhi revealed the ‘KG to PG’ initiative, emphasizing the commitment to providing free education from kindergarten to post-graduation in government institutions, eliminating financial burdens for students.
In a significant announcement, Gandhi promised that ‘tendu’ leaves collectors, a substantial portion of the tribal-dominated Bastar region, would receive an annual grant of Rs 4,000 under the Rajiv Gandhi Protsahan Yojana, provided the Congress comes to power.
On the issue of a caste census, Gandhi expressed his frustration, questioning why Prime Minister Modi refrains from initiating such a measure when he frequently references the ‘OBC’ category in his speeches. Gandhi also pledged to conduct a caste census in the country if the Congress secures power in Delhi, reiterating the promise for Chhattisgarh.
He highlighted the previous UPA government’s efforts to conduct a caste census but criticized the current government for keeping the findings hidden. Gandhi pointed out a lack of diversity in the country’s bureaucratic leadership, stating that only a tiny percentage of OBCs and Adivasis hold decision-making positions when their population is significantly larger.
The Congress leader emphasized his party’s commitment to working for the benefit of farmers, Dalits, laborers, and Adivasis, contrasting it with the perceived favoritism shown to a few industrialists by the BJP-led Centre.
Gandhi also pointed out that key promises made by the Congress ahead of the last assembly polls had been fulfilled in Chhattisgarh, such as the support for paddy farmers.
He criticized the BJP for using ‘vanvasi’ instead of ‘Adivasi’ to refer to tribals, highlighting the importance of language and terminology in preserving culture and identity.
Gandhi concluded by highlighting the Congress’s efforts to empower tribal communities and their rights over natural resources, particularly water, forests, and land.
In a lighter moment during the rally, Gandhi’s concern for a person who appeared to have fainted in the audience demonstrated his empathetic approach to public engagement.