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New Delhi: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday, May 23 said that his government would soon start work on a caste-based census, and hold an all-party meeting on May 27, Friday to take suggestions of all parties on the issue.
“An all-party meeting will be convened to take everyone’s opinions about caste-based census. Then the proposal will be presented before the state cabinet. Talks happened with some parties for conducting the meeting on 27 (May) but awaiting response from some,” the chief minister was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The Janata Dal (United) leader, whose ally BJP has of late grown ambivalent over the issue, expressed confidence that all parties in the state will back the proposed move before clearance is given by the cabinet.
“There should be no problem since both houses of legislature in the state have twice passed resolutions favouring a caste census”, Kumar pointed out.
NDTV quoted Kumar as saying, “We have started talks with every party. Everyone is not on board. We are waiting for their response.”
Deputy chief minister, Tarkishor Prasad of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, was non-committal to media questions on whether the BJP agreed with Nitish Kumar on the caste census, the news outlet reported.
“We will discuss it and consider various aspects,” Prasad said.
Kumar’s statement comes a few days after Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and leader of opposition, Tejashwi Yadav, gave a 72-hour ultimatum to the Bihar government to spell its stand on the caste census. A day later, Kumar met him and assured that a caste census would be conducted very soon.
Kumar, Yadav and other OBC group leaders are of the view that a fresh estimate of the population is necessary to ensure a more effective delivery of targeted welfare.
Kumar had also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press the demand last year, heading an all-party delegation of which Yadav was also a part.
Although Janata Dal (United) and BJP run an alliance government in the state, they have not seen eye to eye on this issue.
The state BJP initially did support, along with other parties in Bihar, Nitish’s call for enumeration of castes. However, with the Union government ruling out such an exercise, the state BJP is caught in a bind.
The BJP’s indifference on the caste census has evoked allegations from opposition parties like the RJD that the BJP, which derives its support base from primarily the ‘upper’ castes, did not care much for the OBCs for whom gains are expected from a headcount of all castes.
It is also believed that the BJP is wary of allowing caste census, for it may once again resurrect the political fortunes of regional parties such as Janata Dal (United), RJD, Samajwadi Party, and Bahujan Samaj Party, whose core voters are largely from the OBC community.
(With inputs from PTI)