Congress chief Sonia Gandhi today stepped in to try to defuse the controversy over party leader Janardan Dwivedi's suggestion for ending caste-based quota, declaring that reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs must continue.
As the SP and BSP--both outside supporters of UPA government and JD(U)--slammed Janardan Dwivedi's remark as "anti-social justice", Sonia Gandhi went in a damage control code with Lok Sabha elections just round the corner, snubbing Janardan Dwivedi and asserting there should be "no doubt or ambiguity" over the party's stand on caste-based quota.
BJP and SAD questioned the timing of the remark and said it was part of Congress' votebank politics with an eye on the upcoming elections. The remark triggered an uproar both inside and outside parliament,
The discomiture in the party over Janardan Dwivedi's remarks was palpable and Congress and the government earlier in the day were quick to distance themselves from the remark, saying it was his "personal" view.
"The empowerment of SCs, STs and OBCs has been an article of faith with the Congress.
"There should be no doubt or ambiguity on the stand of the Congress on the system of reservation for SC/ST and OBCs.
They were introduced by Congress, they have been strengthened by the Congress and they will continue to be championed by the Congress," Sonia Gandhi said in a two-page statement.
Sonia Gandhi said that Congress is of the "firm opinion" that the system of reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs must continue.
"This is essential to deal with the discrimination imposed by centuries of subjugation and oppression," she said.
SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati slammed Janardan Dwivedi for his remark.
Yadav said Congress is trying to end the social justice system in the country while BSP chief Mayawati demanded that the Congress must make its stand clear on the issue.
Janardan Dwivedi's suggestion created an uproar in Parliament with BSP members shouting slogans like "anti-poor government, down down" in the well of Rajya Sabha. They were also joined by SP members while those from JD(U) said Congress is doing away with the reservation system and cried "conspiracy."
BSP members in Lok Sabha also rushed to the well of the House.
Outside Parliament, BJP questioned the timing of the suggestion, saying the "revolutionary idea" should have come long ago.
"We want progress of all sections of society. But why this revolutionary idea came to Congress leader's mind when the elections are round the corner? There was enough time with