The Congress asked the government on Wednesday why was it "quiet" and "running away" from a caste-based census, which was mooted by a woman MP of the ruling BJP in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday and even by the chief ministers of Bihar and Odisha.
A caste-based census is required to assess the exact ground situation because in at least 30 states and Union territories, the reservation for backward classes has crossed the upper limit, the opposition party said.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha while initiating a debate in the Upper House on the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks to restore the states' power to identify and specify the Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBCs), which was lost after the Supreme Court's judgment in the Maratha quota case.
Asserting that there is a demand for a caste-based census from all quarters, Mr Singhvi said the exercise is needed because the quota for backward classes has exceeded the determined limits in many state. In 30 states and Union territories, it is more than 50 per cent, he said, while referring to Nagaland and Chhattisgarh in particular.
Similarly, while there is a 17-per cent quota for the backward classes in jobs, in reality, their percentage is higher, the Congress leader said.
"This brings us to an important issue -- a caste census. Why are you running away from a caste census? Your Chief Minister in Bihar, another Chief Minister in Odisha and your woman MP said you are going to do this. Why is the government keeping quiet today?" he asked.
Mr Singhvi also asked why the government is not saying if it would bring a caste census or not. "The reason why the government is quiet is that the reservation might increase from 22 per cent to 35 per cent," he said.
Mr Singhvi also said the Congress-led UPA government had brought a caste census in 2011 but it had gaps. "There were gaps, I accept that. But we tried," he said.
Speaking about the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021, the Congress leader said it is important because 671 castes would have lost reservation if the amendments were not made.
He said the government had several opportunities to rectify the law brought in 2018, adding, "Due to arrogance and adamancy, you did not do it."
Mr Singhvi said even a Parliamentary Select Committee had suggested the amendments to the government to bring more clarity but it was ignored and thereafter, the top court interpreted it wrongly.
"You committed a mistake, even the Supreme Court committed a big mistake. The court ignored the intent of Parliament," he said.
The Congress leader said the government should incorporate one more line in the amendment bill that it will be effective from 2018.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)