Patna: Ahead of elections to the Bihar Assembly later this year, the state Legislative Assembly on Thursday passed a unanimous resolution for conducting a caste-based census in 2021. It is seen as another step by Bihar Chief Minister (CM) Nitish Kumar to strengthen his social support base among Other Backward Castes (OBCs), Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) and Dalits.
However, Nitish Kumar’s alliance partner in the state government, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), may be opposed to the move. Sachidanand Rai, a BJP Member of Legislative Council (MLC), said he is against a caste-based census since it would only divide society and create social tension. It is likely that more BJP leaders may oppose a caste-based census in the coming months.
Bihar Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary informed the House that Nitish Kumar had made a proposal regarding the same on Tuesday. The Bihar CM has been demanding a caste-based census for several years.
The resolution for a caste-based census to woo OBCs, EBCs and Dalits was supported by the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Indian National Congress (INC) as well. It came about two days after the Bihar Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and said that the National Population Register (NPR) exercise should be done as per the 2010 format.
Last year, Nitish Kumar stressed the need for a caste-based census, saying that the last Census of such a nature was conducted in 1931. The CM has also been supporting the demand for reservations in government jobs and educational institutions according to caste. Kumar said that only a caste-based Census will give an accurate picture of a particular caste and their social conditions. He added that reservation should be given according to populations of different castes.
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 will explode several myths surrounding development of backward and marginalised people and help in the formulation of schemes for their socio-economic progress, he said.
This latest development assumes political significance ahead of the state assembly polls later this year as Nitish’s rival party, the RJD, has repeatedly demanded that caste-based data from the 2011 Census of India be made public by the BJP-led Central government.
RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is undergoing medical treatment at a government hospital in Ranchi after being convicted in connection with the fodder scam, had repeatedly demanded for a census of the kind. Since 2015, Yadav has also been demanding that the data from 2011 be made public to "ensure the empowerment of all those lagging behind in development."
When Kumar joined hands with Yadav ahead of the 2015 state Assembly polls, both had demanded that the Centre makes the data public.
The Central Government released the Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011, in 2015, but reportedly withheld caste-based data, saying it was concerned with the economic data which will help in effective implementation of its programmes.