New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi Wednesday snubbed party leader Janardan Dwivedi's statement calling for an end to reservation along caste lines, saying the empowerment of Scheduled Castes and Tribes and Backward Classes 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 the Congress, they have been strengthened by the Congress and will continue to be championed by the Congress," Gandhi said in a two-page statement.
She said she was of the "firm opinion" that the system of reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs must continue.
"This is essential to deal with the discrimination imposed by centuries of subjugation and oppression," she said.
"It is the Congress that introduced the system of reservation for SC/ST in government employment and educational institutions as well as elected bodies way back in early 1950s."
"It is the Congress, which introduced reservation for OBCs in government employment and educational institutions in the mid 1990s and later."
Stating that the Congress believes in true equality of opportunity for everyone, Gandhi said the party has introduced two bills to strengthen the framework of reservations - the SC/ST (Reservation in post and services) bill, 2008 as also a Constitution (117th) Amendment bill aimed at providing reservation in promotions.
She recalled that Congress had also launched massive scholarship schemes and today over one crore youths belonging to SCs/STs and OBCs are beneficiaries of these schemes every month.
The party has also put in place policies to encourage procurement of goods and services by government agencies from enterprises promoted by SCs and STs.
She also said the party was committed to bringing in a central legislation on SC Sub Plan and Tribal Sub Plan and it has also initiated a national dialogue for ensuring affirmative action for SC and ST in the private sector.
Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, distancing the party from Dwivedi's statement, said it was his "personal opinion".
"Congress continues to adhere to, subscribe to, and support existing reservation policy as on today. There is no re-thinking or change in our stand," he said.