Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has called for an all-party meeting a day after the controversial caste-based survey of the state was released. During the meeting, Kumar will present the censor report’s findings and accordingly decide on the next course of action.
The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar on Monday released findings of its much-awaited caste survey months ahead of the 2024 Parliamentary elections, which revealed that OBCs and EBCs constitute a whopping 63 per cent of the state’s total population.
The data which could spur demands for similar caste-based census elsewhere is a key agenda of the opposition INDIA bloc which may well help Kumar and the alliance in the forthcoming elections in the Hindi heartland where caste politics plays a major part.
According to the data released here by Development Commissioner Vivek Singh, the state’s total population stood at a little over 13.07 crore, out of which the Extremely Backward Classes (36 per cent) were the largest social segment followed by the Other Backward Classes at 27.13 per cent.
Backward caste politicians have long claimed that the population of castes they represented numbered far more than the conventional wisdom based on the 1931 census, which was the last time a caste headcount was conducted and released.
The survey also stated that Yadavs, the OBC group to which Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav belongs, were the largest in terms of the population, accounting for 14.27 per cent of the total.
Dalits, also known as the Scheduled Castes, accounted for 19.65 per cent of the total population in the state, which is also home to nearly 22 lakh (1.68 per cent) people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.
Those belonging to the “unreserved” category, which denotes the proverbial “upper castes” who dominated politics till the Mandal wave of the 1990s comprise 15.52 per cent of the total population.
While talking to reporters, Kumar, however, ducked queries about whether the survey would prove to be “Mandal part 2”, triggering demands for revised quotas for different castes in proportion to their respective population, which may spell trouble for the “Hindutva” juggernaut of the BJP, which is seen as primarily pro-upper caste.
“It would not be proper for me to go into such details right now. Let me share the findings with all parties tomorrow. After that, our focus will be on making policies targeted at castes which may be deemed to be in need of greater assistance. I must add, the survey will benefit all castes, without exception,” he said.
At 3.30 pm tomorrow, the findings of the survey will be made before representatives of all nine parties, which have a presence in state legislature, and which had given the consent for the survey.
Kumar also expressed confidence that the state’s caste survey will provide an impetus for a nationwide census of all social groups.
With inputs from News18