Bihar: Nitish Kumar's caste census puts BJP on sticky wicket
The Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, announced on Monday that his government would soon begin work on a caste census after receiving views from all parties. With the announcement, he's supporting RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav's demand whilst snubbing his ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He has tentatively scheduled an all-party meeting on the issue of caste census for Friday.
Why does this story matter?
The last caste-based census was conducted in 1931 under British rule, which has been used till 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.
Statement of CM Nitish Kumar on the issue
"We will call an all-party meeting to take everyone's views on a caste-based census. Then the proposal will be presented before the state cabinet. We've spoken to some parties on conducting the meeting on 27 (May) but we are waiting," the CM reportedly stated. "We've started talks with every party. Everyone isn't on board. We are waiting for their response," he added.
CM acted after Tejashwi Yadav threatened to seize the campaign
According to reports, the CM acted after Tejashwi Yadav challenged to seize control of the campaign by marching to Delhi. Nitish Kumar reportedly met with him immediately and shared a plan for a caste survey in Bihar, despite knowing it will irritate the BJP. The RJD claims that the meeting resulted in CBI raids on their founder, Lalu Yadav, and a new corruption case.
Will discuss and consider various aspects: Deputy CM
According to the RJD, the BJP wanted to send a strong message to Nitish Kumar through the CBI raids in case he planned to align himself with the RJD. Nitish Kumar's deputy, Tarkishore Prasad of the BJP, was non-committal when asked if the BJP consented to Nitish Kumar's views on the caste census. "We will discuss it and consider various aspects," Prasad reportedly stated.
Last year, Kumar-Yadav met with PM Modi on the issue
A delegation of Bihar politicians, led by Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year to press for a caste census, i.e. caste-based tabulation in the census. To recall, Nitish Kumar's JDU governs the state in an alliance with the BJP.