Caste census: Contrary to Centre's position, Bihar BJP supports Nitish
In an unexpected move, the Bihar unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) joined all the political parties in the state on Wednesday to unanimously support a caste census in the state, despite opposition within BJP at the central leadership level. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced that the state has decided to undertake its own caste census, despite the Centre's reservations.
- The last caste-based census was conducted in 1931 under British rule, which has been used to date for India's affirmative action policies.
- The BJP has avoided the issue for several years, fearing that it would jeopardize the ongoing Hindutva politics.
- Bihar's political parties, however, argue that understanding the population's caste structure will lead to improved policies to assist the most marginalized members of society.
Kumar earlier said all nine parties—with a presence in the Bihar Assembly—unanimously decided to go ahead with the caste census and it would soon be approved by the state cabinet and funds will be allocated for the purpose. "We will duly advertise the process and set a completion deadline," the CM said, adding they are going ahead with the exercise despite the Centre's reservations.
From the BJP, state party president Sanjay Jaiswal and Deputy Chief Minister Tarkishore Prasad attended the meeting. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) was represented by the Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen's (AIMIM) Bihar chief Akhtarul Iman, too, was present.
According to reports, the CM had acted following RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav's challenge to seize control of the campaign by marching to Delhi. Kumar reportedly met with him and shared a plan for a caste survey in Bihar, despite knowing it will irk the BJP. The RJD claims that the meeting resulted in raids on their founder, Lalu Yadav, and a new corruption case.
The Centre has been highlighting the "problematic and erroneous" 2011 caste survey—conducted as a Socio-Economic and Caste Census and not under Census 2011—calling it "impractical." A caste census won't provide social justice, said BJP national spokesperson Guru Prakash Paswan. He added the BJP has taken numerous steps toward achieving its "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas" goal. It is diametrically opposed to the Bihar BJP's position.
Despite strong opposition by the Centre and central leaders of the BJP, the Bihar BJP unit remains a strong supporter of the proposal since its inception. The state unit was also part of an all-party delegation from Bihar that met with Prime Minister Modi last year to advocate for the caste census. It had sent Bihar minister Janak Ram to represent the party.