PATNA: Bihar Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary wrote to leaders of all political parties on Sunday for a scheduled meeting on the issue of caste census in the state under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at 4 p.m. June 1st.
The meeting will take place just one day after the deadline for applications for the Rajya Sabha. If there are only five nominations for the five seats, two from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and one from Janata Dal-United (JD-U) will win outright. For the moment, only the two RJD candidates have submitted their applications. The BJP and JD-U have kept it on hold so far, giving way to speculation on their likely moves.
In his letter, Choudhary, who had previously announced the June 1 date for the meeting after speaking to leaders of different political parties, wrote that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had decided to “convene a multi-party meeting after the Center had expressed its inability to accept the unanimous resolutions of the Bihar Legislative Assembly to hold the census according to caste”.
“The Vidhan Sabha had unanimously passed the resolution to hold a caste census concurrently with the 2021 census. When the Center expressed its inability for this, the CM decided to do so as it stands. The meeting was convened in this regard at the Samvad (secretariat of the CM). Y’all asked to be a part of it,” he wrote.
Choudhary said both resolutions were passed unanimously during his tenure as president and all parties were united on the issue in the state. “The meeting will deliberate on how to proceed. All the leaders of the legislative parties were invited to the meeting, as the resolutions had been passed by the Vidhan Sabha,” he added.
BJP state chairman Dr Sanjay Jaiswal has already announced that his party will participate, while the RJD has voiced its demand for a caste census, with opposition leader Tejaswhi Prasad Yadav even going so far as to threatening to issue a ‘padyatra’ on the issue if the CM did not move forward.
Although the CM has also consistently advocated for caste census as a necessity for better planning based on correct population of different castes, the issue has remained on the back burner due to political constraints and reported reluctance of the BJP . However, it recently came to a head before the Rajya Sabha nominations and the BJP, in a descent, agreed to participate.
Although there are no official data available on the actual strengths of the various castes, all estimates are based on projections from the census of old castes, which was last carried out in 1931. There are often there were demands for it and some initiatives were also taken, but it could not materialize, even as caste remained a primary factor in obtaining the right of electoral arithmetic. The socio-economic census carried out by the UPA government also failed to achieve its objective due to a large number of discrepancies.
Later, Judge Rohini’s Commission proposed a sub-categorization of the Other Backward Caste (OBC) reservation in the government sector. The commission recommended dividing 27% reservation for OBCs into different categories for fair distribution of benefits among different sub-castes to ensure benefits reach truly disadvantaged sections. The commission was established in 2017. After several extensions, it delivered its report, dividing 2,633 OBC castes from the central list into four sub-categories for the distribution of the 27% quota into 2, 6, 9 and 10%.
In 2019, the Legislative Assembly of Bihar passed two government resolutions – one favoring caste census in 2021 and the other for the continuation of the old 200 point list system, which treats the university as the unit, not the 13 point list system which treats the department as a unit.
In 2020, ahead of the state elections, the Bihar Assembly again passed two resolutions – one against the controversial exercise of the National Citizens Register (NRC) in the state and the other for the census based on caste in 2021. They were adopted unanimously.