New Delhi: The controversy over the Congress party's leaked caste based list of office bearers in Bihar flies in the face of Rahul Gandhi's claims that the Congress does not believe in caste.
The Bihar AICC brought out this list, which has the caste mentioned against the names and this includes the name of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
On a list, it has specified castes of nearly 600 members of the party in Bihar. For Meira Kumar, it listed her as a "chamar". That violates the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which bans the use of caste names.
The Congress brass is, however, trying to downplay the incident calling it a mistake.
In October last year, brushing aside criticism that his visits to Dalit households was a political stunt, AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi had said he didn't believe in the caste system and his purpose was to reach out to the poor people. He also refused to get drawn into the controversy of Congress leaders spending the night at Dalit homes merely as a token gesture.
"I don't see it as I am staying at a Dalit's house. I go to a human being's house," he said.
And in November last year, speaking on NDTV's show Your Call, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had said that people need to overcome their mental block when it comes to accepting Dalits or any other community as part of our society's complex caste system.
"People need to change their mindset and if people can do that in US, it was kind of transcending, overcoming, surmounting a major barrier. It's not a question of becoming a president or PM, it's a question of this whole country overcoming this mental block," she had said.
An embarrassed Congress has accused the media of stealing a confidential document. "This is an internal Congress document, and should not have been highlighted by the media," said Jagdish Tytler, who is in charge of the Bihar Congress. He added that the document does not reflect the official policy of the party.
In Delhi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi virtually washed her hands off the exercise saying, "I do not know" when reporters confronted her about the controversy at Rashtrapati Bhawan. She said it was not uncommon that political parties in such exercises use caste names to ensure proper social balance, but it is only meant for internal records.