"I Have Not Left My Ideologies": Ajit Pawar's NCP Demands Caste Census

Ajit Pawar said he has "not left his ideologies" after joining hands with the BJP and the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

'I Have Not Left My Ideologies': Ajit Pawar's NCP Demands Caste Census

Ajit Pawar led the mutiny leading to the split in his uncle Sharad Pawar's party


The Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has said in its manifesto that it supports the demand for a caste-based census, an issue pushed by rival Congress and side-stepped by NCP's ally BJP. "Our party believes in the right to live as a human irrespective of caste, creed and religion. It believes in equality and unity. The NCP has faith in social reformer Sane Guruji's quote, 'The true religion is to offer love to the world.' We must bring the deprived and backward sections of society into the mainstream. We will demand for a caste-based census," the manifesto states.

Ajit Pawar, who led a mutiny against his uncle and NCP chief Sharad Pawar and effected a split in the party, said he has "not left his ideologies" after joining hands with the BJP and the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. "I want to say again, though I am part of Mahayuti [alliance of BJP, Sena and NCP], I have not left my ideologies. We are committed to it and are working accordingly," the Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister has said.

In a promise more aligned to his ally BJP, the NCP has said it believes in "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas".

The NCP manifesto also says that the party will demand Bharat Ratna for former Union Home Minister and former Maharashtra chief minister, the late Yashwantrao Chavan. The manifesto also says that NCP will push for a classical language tag for Marathi.

While releasing the party's manifesto, Ajit Pawar praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's contribution to the country in the last 10 years. "Modi's leadership will ensure our victory in the elections. There is no one from the opposition who can compete with him. He is the face of NDA."

The NCP's support for caste census despite being a part of the NDA comes against the backdrop of the Congress's strong push for such a survey. The Congress has said in its manifesto that if elected to power, it will "conduct a nation-wide Socio-Economic and Caste Census to enumerate the castes and sub-castes and their socio-economic conditions". "Based on the data, we will strengthen the agenda for affirmative action," it has said. Party leader Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly articulated the Congress's position on this issue.

The BJP, while not opposing a caste Census outright, has maintained that it does not do "politics" on this issue.

Ahead of the Chhattisgarh election last year, Home Minister Amit Shah had said, "We are a national political party and we don't do politics of votes on this issue. We will take an appropriate decision after consulting everyone and tell (you) about it. But contesting polls on its basis is not correct. The BJP has never opposed this (caste census), but decisions have to be taken after careful thought. We will let you know at the appropriate time."

In October last year, when the then JDU-RJD-Congress government in Bihar conducted a caste survey, Prime Minister Modi had launched a veiled attack on the main opposition party. The Prime Minister had then said that the Congress could not bring speedy development despite staying in power for decades because they "played with the emotions of the poor and divided society on caste lines".

In the wake of the split in NCP, the factions led by Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar are contesting the polls from separate camps as part of NDA and INDIA bloc, respectively.