Patna: After the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central Government made it clear that it would not go for a caste-based Census exercise in 2021, the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar is set to launch a fresh agitation to mobilise people for the move. Notably, the BJP and JDU had supported a unanimous Assembly resolution calling for a caste-based Census, in 2020. However, the parties do not look too keen now.
Two days ago the Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai told the Lok Sabha that the government had decided that there will be no Census of caste other than the enumeration of SCs and STs populations. Rai, a senior BJP leader from Bihar who belongs to a powerful OBC caste, is seen to be moving on the Centre's lines, which is looking to dilute the issue in a state known as caste-ridden.
On Thursday, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who is also the leader of Opposition, said that his party had been fighting for a caste-based census exercise for a long time and that it will continue its fight.In a series of tweets, Tejashwi said that party will take forward RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s fight. "We want a caste based census and will not move an inch from Laluji's stand on it. Demand for a caste-based census is a fight for the majority population belonging to backward, marginalised and poor sections of society"
Tejashwi's move is being seen as a political strategy to strengthen his social support base among Other Backward Castes (OBCs), Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) and Dalits.
According to RJD leaders here, Tejashwi will use his demand for a caste-based census to "expose" his arch rival, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and his ally BJP’s double-stand on the matter. "While the BJP is against a caste census in Parliament, it sings a different tune in Bihar.The BJP had supported a resolution for conducting a caste-based census in 2021. Similarly, Nitish Kumar’s JD-U supported the resolution but is now silent when BJP-led Central Government said no to a caste-based census.”
Last year Bihar Legislative Assembly passed a unanimous resolution for conducting a caste-based census in 2021.The resolution for a caste-based census was supported by the ruling JD-U and BJP and RJD and the Indian National Congress (INC) as well. In 2019, Nitish Kumar stressed the need for a caste-based census, saying that the last Census of such a nature was conducted in 1931. According to him, a caste-based census will reveal much and that people have a right to know, including strengths and weaknesses on different parameters, including population.The data is expected to expose several myths surrounding the development of backward and marginalised people and help in the formulation of schemes for their socio-economic progress, he said.
However, after Nitish Kumar’s political bargaining power waned following his party's poor showing in last year's polls, he has been playing second fiddle to BJP, which is now the big brother. The RJD now has a ready-made issue to target both the CM and the BJP.
The RJD has repeatedly demanded that caste-based data from the 2011 Census of India be made public by the BJP-led Central Government.
Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is undergoing medical treatment in Delhi after being granted bail in the fodder scam case, had consistently demanded for a census of the kind. Since 2015, Yadav has also been demanding that data from 2011 be made public to "ensure the empowerment of all those lagging behind in development."
When Nitish dumped the BJP and joined hands with Yadav ahead of the 2015 Assembly polls, both he had demanded that the Centre make the data public.
The Central Government released the Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011, in 2015, but withheld caste-based data, saying it was only concerned with the economic data which will help in the effective implementation of its programmes.