Demand for caste-based census growing: Nitish Kumar

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a votary of caste-based census, on Monday said several political parties in other states have started raising the same demand for caste enumeration of the country’s population and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to make a decision on it.

He also dismissed speculations that such a census, in which details of Other Backward Class (OBC) people will be taken besides those of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, will lead to social tension.

“We recently met PM Modi over the issue. Leaders of all political parties of Bihar are of the view that caste-based census should be conducted in the country as it will benefit everyone. He listened to everyone’s opinion very carefully. Now he has to make a decision,” Kumar told reporters.

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Led by Kumar, a 10-party delegation from Bihar, which included the BJP, met Modi in New Delhi on August 23 to push for a caste-based census which has not taken place in the country since the British rule.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of his weekly public interaction programme Janata Ke Darbar Mein Mukhya Mantri’ here, he said, “Certain political parties in other states have also started demanding a caste-based census in the country.”

The JD(U) leader, however, did not name any party.

A number of parties of Uttar Pradesh – Samajwadi Party (SP), Congress, Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal, Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, Sanjay Nishad’s Nishad Party and Babu Singh Kushwaha’s Jan Adhikar Party – have raised such a demand ahead of assembly elections due next year in various states including UP.

Several political parties of Maharashtra and Odisha have also sought caste-based census which is scheduled to be held this year.

With census being the Union government’s prerogative, it is now up to the Centre to take a call on the demand.

Statistics about different castes will help in formulating development schemes effectively as many of them have not benefitted so far in line with their actual population, the Bihar CM has said recently.

The BJP leadership has so far not taken a categorical stand on the issue which has been lapped up by a number of regional parties, many of them its rivals in different states.

There is a view that a caste census will bring the Mandal politics to the centre stage of politics and can be an effective weapon in the hands of regional parties to counter the BJP’s Hindutva and welfare planks, the twin issues used by the saffron party to make inroads into the OBC vote bank at the expense of state-based parties.

Kumar rejected fears that a census of all castes could lead to social tension.

When the (Bihar) legislature passed resolutions on it, members of all parties and from all castes and religions supported it. There should be no misgivings, he said.

Observing that findings of the Socio Economic Caste Census conducted during the Congress-led UPA regime were not made public because of “doubts over statistical accuracy”, Kumar said, Caste-based census will be in the interest of the country.

To a question on rising prices of petrol and diesel in the country, Kumar said, The state government is in constant touch with the central government over the issue. We are trying to find a way out .

Patna has already joined the list of state capitals where the petrol price has crossed the Rs 100-mark.

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