Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that a caste-based survey will be conducted in the state within a set time frame and the necessary cabinet clearance would be given soon for the purpose. The announcement on Wednesday comes after an all-party meeting — chaired by Kumar — was held in Patna over the contentious issue that had been dominating Bihar politics since last year when RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav raised its demand, which also got support from the chief minister.
In the meeting, we unanimously decided that a caste-based census will be done in a set time frame. Soon a cabinet decision will be taken and it will be available in the public domain…” said Nitish Kumar, who is himself an OBC and product of the Mandal era.
Leader of Opposition in Bihar assembly Tejashwi Yadav, who also attended the all-party meet, however, clarified that it will be a caste-based survey and not a census. “It’s our win. Today we suggested (in the all-party meeting) that social anthropologists should be included in this. The central government should support it financially. This survey is in the interest of the people of Bihar,” he said.
Yadav further said that the RJD has demanded to introduce a bill in this regard in the next cabinet meeting and begin the survey in November this year. “During chhath puja, people who reside outside Bihar will also come to the state and till then we can complete preparations for it,” said the Yadav scion.
From the BJP’s side, Deputy Chief Minister Tarkishor Prasad and state unit president Sanjay Jaiswal attended the meeting.
An all-party delegation, headed by Nitish Kumar, had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year to press the demand. However, the Union government finally expressed its inability to undertake the headcount of social groups other than the Dalits and the tribals. This was resented by the numerically powerful OBCs, who dominate politics in Bihar, especially since the 1990s when the Mandal Commission recommendations were implemented.
It was, therefore, demanded that if the Centre was reluctant to do the needful, the state get a headcount of castes done at its own expense. Kumar agreed to the demand. The issue has, however, been hanging fire, apparently on account of the ambivalence shown by the BJP in the wake of its central leadership having turned down the demand for a national caste census.
The BJP leadership, on the other hand, has been at pains to underscore that it has never been opposed to a caste census and that its members had supported two resolutions passed by both houses of the state legislature, previously, in favour of the demand. Against this backdrop, the state BJP president has also come out with a tweet explicitly stating that his party will be attending the all-party meeting convened today.
The meeting, which was likely to take place on May 27, was deferred in view of the fact that the major parties in the state, the CM’s JD(U), BJP and RJD, currently have their hands full with biennial elections to five Rajya Sabha seats.