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Bihar: Mahagathbandan Govt to Present Caste Survey Report in Assembly Tomorrow

Official release confirmed this decision following a meeting of the business advisory committee on Monday, November 6

Patna: It is now official that the Mahagathbandan government, led by Nitish Kumar, has decided to present the details of the Bihar caste survey report, including socio-economic data, before the legislative assembly on Tuesday, November 7. This marks the second day of the ongoing winter session of the House, where discussions on the report will take place.

An official release confirmed this decision following a meeting of the business advisory committee on Monday, November 6, the first day of the state assembly. The meeting was chaired by Speaker Awadh Bihari Choudhary and attended by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, Leader of the Opposition Vijay Kumar Sinha, and others.

The Mahagathbandan government released the much-anticipated caste survey report on October 2, 2023. Kumar and Yadav had repeatedly pledged to place all the report's details, including socio-economic data, before the state legislative assembly during the winter session and make decisions about the future course of action.

However, Sinha, a senior Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) leader, expressed concerns about the state government's decision to present the caste survey report, describing it as a hasty move.

Interestingly, the opposition BJP has been nervous and uncomfortable since the caste survey report was made public last month. Saffron party leaders and their allies have questioned the report's authenticity and raised allegations of manipulation. In a recent attack on the report, powerful BJP leader and Union Minister Amit Shah, during a public rally in Muzaffarpur district on Sunday, November 5, labelled the caste survey report as a “Chalawa” (illusion). Shah alleged that the Mahagathbandan government deliberately inflated the Yadav (OBC) and Muslim population during the exercise while reducing the numbers of backward and extremely backward classes. Shah accused the state government of engaging in politics of appeasement and neglecting the welfare of other backward communities.

Ironically, Shah remained silent about the fact that the population of Scheduled Castes (SC) or Dalits has significantly increased in the caste survey compared to the 2011 nationwide Census. In 2011, the Dalit population accounted for 15.9% of Bihar's total population. Still, the latest caste survey data indicates that they now make up 19.65%, including Dusadh or Paswans at 5.31% and Ravidas or Chamar at 5.25%. This represents a 3.75% increase in the overall Dalit population over the past 12 years. Similarly, the population of Scheduled Tribes (ST) or Adivasis has risen from 1.28% (2011 Census) to 1.68%.

The caste survey report highlighted a 0.7 to 0.8% increase in the state's Muslim population, indicating a rise from 16.9% to 17.7% compared to the 2011 Census.

Sensing the potential political repercussions of the report, the BJP and its allies are no longer opposing it. This change in strategy reflects their concern that Mandal politics might undermine 'Kamandal' politics this time. In fact, the BJP has demanded that the government release the socio-economic data.

On Monday, Tejashwi Yadav strongly countered Shah's claims, stating that if they were true, Nitish Kumar should have inflated his Kurmi caste population in the survey. Yadav challenged Shah to explain the basis for his claims about population inflation and reduction among certain castes. He pointed out that Yadav is also from a backward (OBC) caste, and according to data from the last caste survey conducted in 1931, the Yadav population was 11%. After decades, when the recent caste survey was conducted, the Yadav population is now 14.6%.

Political observers have noted that instead of focusing on the ongoing election campaigns in five states, Shah spent a day in Muzaffarpur to counter the caste survey report. This reflects the fear within the BJP and Shah regarding the implications of the report.

In recent days, the top leaders of the ruling Mahagathbandan coalition, including Kumar, the de facto chief of Janta Dal (United) (JD-U), and Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) chief and former CM Lalu Prasad Yadav, have repeatedly met to discuss their strategy for using socio-economic data to counter the BJP's Hindutva card in the state and across the country.

The ruling coalition, which includes RJD, JD-U, Congress, and left parties, has discussed strategies for expanding the scope of reservations in Bihar following the caste survey.

Until now, JD-U, a major ally in the ruling Mahagathbandhan, had consistently questioned the top BJP leadership for openly opposing the caste survey in the state. Several JD-U leaders accused the BJP of trying to disrupt the survey and attributed interference from the Central government in the Supreme Court as an attempt to undermine the ongoing caste survey. The differences between the ruling coalition and the BJP revolve around Central government intervention in the hearing of petitions challenging the Patna High Court's decision to proceed with the caste survey in Bihar.

This is likely the first time in the country that a caste survey report has been released 92 years after the last caste census was conducted.

According to the Bihar caste survey report, there are 215 castes in Bihar, and the total population of Bihar is 13.7 crore. This includes 36% Extreme Backward Classes (EBCs), 27% Other Backward Classes (OBCs) (OBCs and EBCs together account for 63%), 19% Scheduled Castes (Dalits), and 1.68% Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis).

It is noteworthy that the population of SCs has increased in the state since the 2011 census. There has also been a slight increase in the Muslim population. However, the population of Upper Castes, locally known as Sawarn, has decreased to 15.52%, including 2.86% Bhumihar, 3.66% Brahmin, 3.45% Rajput, and 0.60% Kayasth. The remaining 4.8% are upper castes among Muslims, including Syed, Sheikh, and Pathan.

According to the report, Chief Minister Kumar's Kurmi caste population is 2.87%, and RJD chief Lalu's Yadav caste population is 14.26%, one of the highest among all castes.

The BJP's state president, Samrat Kushwaha, belongs to the Koeri or Kushwaha (OBC) caste, with a population of 4.21%. The caste survey report also revealed that the total Hindu population is 81.9%, followed by 17.7% Muslims, 0.05% Christians, 0.01% Sikhs, 0.08% Buddhists, 0.0096% Jains, and the remaining population follows other religions.

The caste survey report and its data have already heated up the caste-driven politics in Bihar.

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