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BJP in bind over Nitish Kumar’s Delhi visit for caste census

Party's state president Sanjay Jaiswal and deputy CM Tarkishore Prasad could be a part of the delegation to ensure that the party does not fall foul of the backward castes
Nitish Kumar.
Nitish Kumar.
File picture

Dev Raj   |   Patna   |   Published 22.08.21, 02:15 AM

The BJP is in a bind in Bihar over the demand by ally and chief minister Nitish Kumar for a caste census.

Nitish will be leading an all-party delegation comprising 11 members to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 23 in New Delhi to discuss the demand for a caste census.


The BJP leaders in the state are in a dilemma over the meeting, especially in the light of the assertion by its top leadership that there would be no caste census in the country.

If they do not accompany Nitish, they might be seen as working against the interests of the backward castes. They also stand the danger of annoying the BJP top brass if they decide to go with him.

Asked about the issue, Bihar BJP vice-president and MLC Devesh Kumar told this newspaper: “We don’t know yet. It is for our central leadership to decide whether our leaders will be a part of the Nitish Kumar-led delegation.”

However, sources said that BJP state president Sanjay Jaiswal or senior leader and deputy chief minister Tarkishore Prasad could be a part of the delegation to ensure that the party does not fall foul of the backward castes.

A majority of the BJP leaders are of the view that “caste-oriented” politics is detrimental to their “nationalist” politics, and there was a need for states like Bihar to come out of caste and identity politics.

They are also planning to counter Nitish by raking up the caste survey that his government conducted across all 243 Assembly constituencies in 2013-14 with the help of Bihar police’s special branch, which acts as the state’s intelligence agency.

“This survey was clandestinely conducted by the special branch at the behest of the chief minister. Its focus was not on the entire population, but on people aged 18 and above who would serve as voters. The data was never made public, and the government later hushed up everything,” a senior BJP leader and a close associate of Nitish told The Telegraph on the condition of anonymity.

The BJP leader added that the data thrown up by that caste survey was so alarming that the Nitish government thought it prudent to hide it. There were many discrepancies as well.

“The figures pointed several things like mass exodus or migration of people, including the general category castes and the pachhpaniyas (55 castes) who are counted among the EBCs (Extremely Backward Castes), in search of work. The voters of a few dominant backward castes were more than anticipated. The data was against the existing notions,” the BJP leader said.

However, the data was somehow leaked and came into the hands of the BJP also, which put it to good use during the elections that were conducted in the state since 2014 onwards.

“Nitish keeps talking about the Centre not releasing caste-related data of the Socio-Economic Caste Census conducted in 2011, but never discusses the caste survey that he conducted. Maybe its accuracy was questionable, but he (Nitish) must have got an idea of the existing caste composition in the state. He should tell something about it,” another senior BJP leader said.

The last caste census was conducted in 1931 during the British rule. It had put the backward caste population in the country at around 52 per cent. The data became the backbone of the reservation policy of the central and state governments.

A socio-economic caste survey was conducted in 2011 by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, but the data on castes was not published due to various alleged discrepancies.

Last month, minister of state for home affairs Nityanand Rai had told the Lok Sabha that there were no plans for a caste census. It prompted Nitish and Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal to profess their support for the caste census and ask the Centre to reconsider its decision. Nitish also pointed out that the Bihar legislature unanimously passed resolutions in its favour twice (February 2019 and February 2020) and sent them to the Centre, which should pay attention to it.

RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav has asserted that Nitish should consider conducting a caste census in Bihar on the lines of Karnataka if the central government refuses it.

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