New Delhi: Signalling a fresh confrontation, Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday mounted a fresh attack on the government over making educational qualifications mandatory for contesting Panchayat polls in BJP-ruled Haryana and Rajasthan, accusing BJP and RSS of taking away the right from the poor, Dalits and adivasis.
"Proud that opposition came together against BJP's attempt to exclude more than 50% of India's electorate from the right to contest elections," Rahul said on Twitter.
The Congress Vice President said, "By making edu qualifications mandatory for contesting Panchayat polls, BJP & RSS want to take this right away from the poor, dalits & adivasis".
His reaction came close on the heels of government facing an embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha, which passed the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address only after an amendment moved by Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad was included following a division in which 94 voted for the amendment and 61 against.
The amendment regretted that the address did not commit support to rights of all citizens to contest Panchayat elections in the backdrop of a law in Rajasthan and Haryana that made matriculation certificate a criteria for contesting the polls.
"The right to contest elections is a basic right of every citizen of India. Our founding fathers fought against the British for this right.
"They want to take this right away from all those who have been denied access, exploited and suppressed," Rahul said in a series of tweets. Azad later told reporters that the move was necessary as the Narendra Modi government was "testing waters" over the issue by bringing the changes in Haryana and Rajasthan.
Senior party leader Jairam Ramesh who addressed a press conference with Azad and party spokesman R P N Singh, said Congress would launch a major agitation both inside and outside Parliament to protest the move which goes against the spirit of the Constitution.
Declaring that the BJP's move to keep a majority of people out of the contest at panchayat level was "unacceptable", Ramesh said it was strange that there was no minimum educational qualification required to become an MLA or MP.
He said if such a move was enforced, 80 per cent of people would not be able to contest local body polls.
Congress had earlier launched an agitation against the land acquisition bill, which was dubbed by it as 'anti-farmer' and 'pro-corporate'.