Home / India / RJD offers support to Nitish Kumar on caste census

RJD offers support to Nitish Kumar on caste census

Only the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance government has not officially expressed its support for a caste census
Nitish Kumar.
Nitish Kumar.
File photo

Dev Raj   |   Patna   |   Published 07.01.22, 02:25 AM

The Rashtriya Janata Dal on Thursday offered its support to the Nitish Kumar-led government if he wanted to do away with any party not standing with him on the issue of caste census, in a move directed against the BJP.

“We appeal to chief minister Nitish Kumar to remain steadfast in his decision to conduct a caste census in the state. All parties, except the BJP, are ready for it. If you go ahead on this issue and face any difficulty, our party and the entire Grand Alliance under the leadership of Tejashwi Prasad Yadav will stand with you,” RJD state president Jagadanand Singh said.


“The BJP is the largest party in the ruling alliance. A chief minister heads the council of ministers, which is there to advise him. He has the power to throw out any minister or party if it is not obeying his directions. Do not hesitate to remove anybody who is not abiding by your decisions. I am putting forth Tejashwi’s directions in public that the RJD will support you if you march ahead,” Singh added.

Only the BJP in the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has not officially expressed its support for a caste census.

It is yet to confirm its participation in an all-party meeting planned by Nitish to discuss the ways and means to conduct the caste census in Bihar and has kept him waiting for about a month.

The RJD offer also signalled its willingness to warm up to the JDU, which has expressed its differences with the BJP on several issues such as the National Register of Citizens, National Population Register, uniform civil code, triple talaq, ban on namaz at public places and population control policy.

Nitish, with his socialist credentials, is also said to be uncomfortable with the BJP that latches on to nationalist policies and whips up sentiments on religious lines.

However, the BJP asserted that the move was a ploy by the RJD to come to power through backdoor after suffering defeat in the 2020 Assembly elections and bypolls in October 2021.

“The RJD now believes that it cannot come to power in Bihar after its defeat in the Assembly elections and the by-elections. It is now trying to do so by hook or by crook. It is forgetting that Nitishji broke away from the Grand Alliance after corruption charges against several RJD leaders and they did not clarify in public despite being asked to do so,” BJP spokesperson and former MLA Prem Ranjan Patel said on the RJD offer to the JDU.

Patel added that the state unit of the BJP had not taken any step on caste census because all parties had left the decision on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The all-party meeting had met the Prime Minister on the issue and left the decision to him. He is yet to say no to the caste census. So what is the hurry? We are sure he will take a suitable decision that will be in the interest of the country and the state,” Patel said.

The JDU did not come out with any official statement on the RJD offer. However, one of its senior leaders pointed out on the condition of anonymity that it was up to Nitish to take “a decision on any offer whether from the RJD or the BJP. We may have less seats, but the NDA got votes due to his good governance”.

Power in the state Legislative Assembly is delicately balanced with the NDA having 126 seats (BJP-74, JDU-45, Hindustani Awam Morcha Secular-4 and Vikassheel Insan Party-3) and the support of the lone independent MLA.

The Opposition Grand Alliance has 110 seats (RJD-75, Congress-19, CPIML-12, CPI-2, CPM-2). Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM has five members in the 243-member Assembly. One seat is vacant. Any party or alliance with 122 seats can form the government.

Caste census is a pet demand of Nitish, his JDU, former chief minister Lalu Prasad and his RJD. Both have been demanding it for around a decade now.

The demand was revived last year with a claim that it would help know the number of various castes and accordingly formulate development policies for them. The move also has several potential political benefits, including polarising the electorate on caste lines. It could be used to counter the polarisation of votes on communal lines.

Nitish, at the behest of RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, had led an all-party delegation to meet Modi in August to demand caste census, but the effort came to a naught. The BJP has repeatedly said in Parliament that it has no plans to conduct any enumeration of castes other than the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Tejashwi again met Nitish in the first week of December and said the state should conduct enumeration of the population of different castes on its own. The latter agreed in-principle to get it done and asked for an all-party meeting. The BJP is yet to get back to him on it.

The last caste census in the country was conducted in 1931 while the British were in power. It had put the backward castes population 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 then UPA government, but the data on castes was not published due to alleged discrepancies in the data.

Karnataka is the first state in recent times to get a separate state-specific caste census done.

Copyright © 2020 The Telegraph. All rights reserved.