Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses a public meeting, in Kanker, Chhattisgarh, on Oct. 28, 2023.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses a public meeting, in Kanker, Chhattisgarh, on Oct. 28, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PTI

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday promised free education in government schools and colleges in Chhattisgarh and ₹4,000 a year for ‘tendu’ leaves collectors if his party retains power in the state.

Addressing an election rally in the Bhanupratappur assembly constituency in Kanker district, Mr. Gandhi asked if Prime Minister Narendra Modi brings up ‘OBC’ (other backward class) in his speeches, then why he is scared of a caste census.

Caste census will be conducted in the country if the Congress is voted to power (at the Centre), he said.

Bhanupratappur is among the 20 constituencies that will see polling on November 7 in the first phase of the Chhattisgarh elections. The second phase will be held on November 17.

“We are going to take a major step for you which we call ‘KG to PG’. From KG (kindergarten) to PG (post-graduation), free education will be provided in government institutions to students (if Congress retains power in state). They will not have to pay a single penny,” Mr. Gandhi said.

Gandhi promised that if the Congress forms the government in the state after polls, then tendu leaves collectors will be given ₹4,000 per year under the Rajiv Gandhi Protsahan Yojana. This is being seen as a major announcement from the Bhanupratappur seat, which is a part of the tribal-dominated Bastar region.

Pitching for a caste census, he said, “Narendra Modi ji uses ‘OBC’ word in his every speech but why he is scared of the caste census…OBCs have to become aware as they are being ditched.” Mr. Gandhi also announced that the Congress would conduct a caste census in the country if it is voted to power in Delhi (at the Centre). “We have already made this promise for Chhattisgarh,” he said.

The Congress MP targeted the BJP-led Centre and claimed that it works for the benefit of two-three industrialists. The Congress works in the interest of farmers, Dalits, labourers and Adivasis, he said.

Key promises made by the Congress ahead of the last assembly polls have been fulfilled in Chhattisgarh, he claimed.

Objecting to the use of ‘vanvasi’ in place of ‘Adivasi’ for tribals, he said its use by the BJP is an insult to Adivasis and an attack on their culture, history and language.

During his speech, Mr. Gandhi stopped briefly and walked to the other corner of the stage carrying a bottle of water apparently after someone fainted on the ground. Gandhi returned to the dais and asked if the person was alright.

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