Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi has never practised caste politics.
“How is the Prime Minister’s caste relevant?” Jaitley asked on Twitter. “He has never done caste politics. He has only done developmental politics. He is inspired by nationalism.”
Jaitley said that those who deceive the poor in the name of caste will never succeed. “They have only amassed wealth in the name of caste politics,” the finance minister said. “The Prime Minister’s assets are not even 0.01% when compared to the First Family of the BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party] or the RJD [Rashtriya Janata Dal].”
Jaitley was responding to statements made by BSP chief Mayawati and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav who had criticised Modi for a remark he made at an election election rally in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh, on Saturday.
Modi had said: “Mayawatiji, I am the most backward...I request with folded hands not to drag me into caste politics, 130 crore people are my family. This country did not know my caste till my detractors abused me...I am thankful to Mayawatiji, Akhileshji, the Congress people and the mahamilavatis that they are discussing my caste...I believe that taking birth in a backward caste is an opportunity to serve the country.”
Later that day, Mayawati alleged that Modi converted to OBC during his tenure as Gujarat chief minister for political gains.
On Sunday, Yadav said he had predicted such a comment from Modi. “I had said on April 20 that Narendra Modi ji, after portraying himself as fake OBC, will call himself a person belonging to extremely backward caste,” Yadav said on Twitter. “He did so yesterday [at the Kannauj rally in UP]. The fact is that he is an upper caste [person] by birth and backward on papers. He will say so many things just to fetch votes.”
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi claimed she was not aware of Modi’s caste and the Opposition had never raised it. “I am still not aware of the caste that Modi belongs to,” she said at Busiyave village in Amethi, according to IANS. “And the opposition and the Congress have never raised the issue of his caste.” She said the Congress had only been raising issues such as development, health services, employment, education, women safety and farm distress.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram claimed Modi was the first leader who later became prime minister to have campaigned “wearing his caste on his sleeve” before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. “Now, he says he has no caste,” he said. “In 2014 and thereafter, he said repeatedly that he is proud that the people elected a chaiwala as PM. Now he says, he never mentioned his origins as a chaiwala! What does the PM take us for? A bunch of idiots who have large memory losses?”