BJP president J P Nadda recently claimed that his party had given India its first OBC (Other Backward Classes) Prime Minister. Nadda was speaking in the Rajya Sabha on the 128th Constitution Amendment Bill to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

Nadda made the remarks as a rebuttal to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s statement that there were only three OBC secretaries in the central government. Nadda said the OBC reservation in services was implemented only after the Supreme Court asked for it in 1992. He said the cut-off for the current panel of secretaries was 1992. He asked Congress about the number of OBC secretaries during the 2004-2014 period when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power at the Centre. “Desh ko pehla OBC pradhan mantri BJP-NDA ne diya, yeh bhi humein dhyan rakhna padhega”, he said (Translation: We must remember that the BJP-NDA gave the first OBC PM to the country), adding that of the 303 Lok Sabha MPs of the BJP, 85 belonged to the OBC category.

Incidentally, a similar claim was made by Union home minister Amit Shah in May this year while speaking at the national convention of the Samast Modi Samaj in Ahmedabad. “During its rule at the Centre, Congress only neglected, harassed and insulted the OBCs. The Congress did nothing for OBCs during its 56-year rule. As soon as the BJP came to power, PM Modi gave the OBC community its due respect. And it was the BJP which gave the first OBC PM to the country in the form of Modi,” Shah said.

Is PM Modi India’s First OBC Prime Minister? Fact-checking a Long-standing Claim

J P Nadda’s claims of the BJP-NDA alliance giving India its first OBC PM was met with objections from a section of opposition members who said H D Deve Gowda was the first PM from the community. The heated exchange took place with Deve Gowda present in the house.

Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda served as the 11th Prime Minister of India from June 1996 to April 1997. Deve Gowda’s coalition government had collapsed after 10 months in power, losing a vote of confidence in Parliament without the crucial support of the Congress party.

In the past, Deve Gowda had gone on record to say that he was “undoubtedly” India’s first PM from the other backward classes. This came after the then BJP president Amit Shah made a similar claim about PM Narendra Modi as the first one from the OBC communities to occupy the country’s top post. “I am undoubtedly the first OBC PM of the country. Amit Shah is mistaken. And where does the BJP help the OBCs?”

Gowda had said his community, the Vokkaligas, who are landowners and tillers, have always been identified as “economically, socially and educationally backward” by every commission appointed by the Centre and Karnataka. “I used to receive a scholarship as an OBC student,” he said, adding that the fight to include his community in the OBC list was taken up by none other than Periyar in Tamil Nadu. “Right from the beginning, our community is part of the backward castes list and there is no dispute on this issue,” Gowda said.

As some members protested against Nadda’s claim in the parliament, Nadda said, “I am talking about Congress… I am talking about Congress and not them. Deve Gowda ji is ours. I am talking about Congress, I am not talking about Janata Dal. The first OBC PM has been given by the NDA, that is Narendra Modi”.

It is also to be noted that Charan Singh, who served as the 5th Prime Minister from July 1979 and January 1980, was a Jat. Rajasthan was the first state to extend OBC benefits to the Jat community in 1999. Jats are included in the Central list of OBCs in states like Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Bihar.

Hence, there’s ample evidence that suggests that Narendra Modi is not the first OBC Prime Minister of India, contrary to claims by BJP president J P Nadda and Union home minister Amit Shah.

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About the Author

Student of Economics at Presidency University. Interested in misinformation.