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Bihar: Nitish Kumar Ticks Off BJP, Says No Need for Population Control Law

BJP’s chorus for a population control law in Bihar is being seen as a move to counter the CM’s demand for a caste-based Census.
BJP’s chorus for a population control law in Bihar is being seen as a move to counter the CM’s demand for a caste-based Census.

Image Courtesy: PTI

Patna: After Bharatiya Janata Partry (BJP) leaders tried to counter their ally Nitish Kumar’s demand for a caste-based Census exercise in 2021,by demanding a population control law in the state, the Bihar Chief Minister on Tuesday categorically ruled out any need for a population control law.

“No need for a population control law in Bihar. If any state enacts a population control law and implements it, we have no concern with it. But, we will have no such thing”, said Nitish Kumar here, in reference to a demand for a population control law made by his cabinet colleague Neeraj Kumar Bablu, a senior BJP leader.

The Chief Minister reiterated that in place of a law to control population, what was necessary was an awareness campaign, adding that laws alone can’t help check the population.

“What others say and do what, hardly matters to us. Our stand is clear, that an awareness campaign will work for population control rather than a law”.

The Chief Minister, who also heads the Janata Dal (United), claimed that by using awareness, Bihar had controlled its population growth rate. The rate of reproduction has come down to 4% from 5%, thanks to awareness strategies, In the next five years, the rate of reproduction will come down to 2% through awareness in the state, he added.

Last month, too, Nitish Kumar strongly favoured an awareness campaign for population control. He had then stated that the rate of reproduction comes down effectively once women are educated. Bihar has experimented with this by promoting education among women and had achieved success, he had said.

In the past one month, a string BJP leaders, including ministers, MLAs and MLCs, has been pitching for a population control law in Bihar on the lines of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP-led Yogi Adityanath government has prepared a draft of a population control Bill.

Incidentally, the UP draft Bill has invited a lot of criticism for being harsh on women, especially poor and marginalised, as it may lead to depriving them of their rights and also subject them to ill health, social stigma and violence.

However, the BJP leaders’ chorus in Bihar is being widely seen as a part of the saffron party’s strategy to counter Nitish Kumar and his party JD-U's bid to demand a caste-based Census.

“Nitish has no other option but to stick to his demand as BJP has already weakened him and is trying to damage his image. His social support base comes from the OBCs, EBCs and dalits,” said political commentator DM Diwakar, former director of A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna.

However, Nitish Kumar seems adamant on his demand for a caste-based Census and has publicly opposed his ally, BJP’s bid to counter him by proposing a law on population control.

In a bid to send a political message on his demand for a caste-based Census, the Chief Minister on Monday said he was yet to receive a response to his letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an appointment on the issue.

“I had written a letter that was received by the PMO on April 4. But the reply is yet to come. I had also sought an appointment with the PM for having a meeting with the delegation of political parties’ from Bihar,” he said.

Nitish Kumar’s insistence on a caste-based Census is widely seen as a response to opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) aggressive stand against the Centre's decision to not go in for such an exercise. Both Nitish Kumar’s JD-U and Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD have been 'pro-Mandal' and the caste-based Census is an old demand reiterated by both the parties.

Last month, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai told the Lok Sabha that the government had decided against a caste-based Census, other than usual enumeration of the Scheduled Caste and Tribe population. Rai, a senior BJP leader from Bihar, who belongs to a powerful OBC (Other Backward Classes) community, is seen to be toeing the line of the BJP-led Central government, which is looking to dilute the issue in Bihar, known to be a caste-ridden state.

Notably, in the past a fortnight, Nitish Kumar has aired his differences with BJP on three issues  -- caste-based Census, the Pegasus spyware issue and population control – creating a buzz in political circles here.

Last month, the newly appointed JD-U national president Lalan Singh, considered close to Nitish Kumar, had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and demanded a caste-based Census. Singh had made it clear to the BJP that his party would not go back on its demand for a caste-based Census.

Nitish Kumar, who belongs to an agrarian OBC community, the kurmis, said that a caste-based Census exercise should at least be conducted once. This would help to know the number of people belonging to different poor and marginalised castes in different regions, he said. The last caste Census was conducted in 1931 before India’s independence from the British.

The CM recalled that the Bihar Legislative Assembly passed a unanimous resolution for conducting a caste-based census in February 2019 and in February 2020, consecutively, and had sent it to the Centre. Notably, the BJP and JD-U had supported a resolution calling for a caste-based Census in 2020. However, the BJP does not look too keen on it.

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