Patna: Ignoring his ruling ally Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) opposition, Bihar chief minister (CM) Nitish Kumar clearly expressed his intention on Monday on conducting a caste-based census in the state.
“We will call an all-party meeting soon to discuss a caste-based census. It will not take more time. Every party will make its stand clear and the government will look into the suggestions. Subsequently, a proposal on conducting a caste-based census will be approved by the state cabinet,” Kumar told the media in the state capital.
By finally deciding to hold the much-awaited all-party meeting nearly nine months after its announcement, Kumar has sent a strong political message to the BJP’s top leaders that he has his own agenda.
Months of delay to convene the meeting was widely seen as a move not to antagonise the BJP despite growing differences over the imposition of a uniform civil code, population control law and removal of loudspeakers from religious places.
The development comes five days after opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav met Kumar on conducting a caste census. Kumar assured Yadav last week that the government is serious and will call an all-party meeting at the earliest to discuss the matter.
Interestingly, soon after Yadav, who had given an ultimatum of 72 hours to Kumar to clarify his stand on conducting a caste census, got assurance from Kumar, senior BJP leaders, including Kumar’s cabinet colleagues and a BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar, have publicly voiced opposition to such a census. The BJP leaders said that there is no need for a caste census and claimed that development works are more important.
According to politics watchers, Kumar is more inclined to favour Yadav, who is also the Opposition’s leader in the Assembly, on a caste census and deliberately chose to ignore the BJP’s reservations.
Janata Dal (United) national president Lalan Singh had already made it clear that his party will not back down on the demand for a caste census. JD(U)’s cry favouring a caste-based census is widely seen as a result of the RJD’s aggressive stand against the Centre’s decision not to go in for such an exercise. Both JD(U) and RJD, who are ‘pro-Mandal’ have been demanding a caste census for long.