New Delhi, October 2
In a development that could reshape political narratives ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the Mahagathbandhan (JD-U, RJD, Congress, Left)-led Bihar Government on Monday unveiled caste survey data that put the population of Backward Classes (BCs) in the state at a whopping 63.13%.
Will give impetus to nationwide census
Findings will provide impetus for nationwide census of all social groups… We will focus on making policies targeted at castes needing greater assistance. All castes will benefit, without exception.
— Nitish Kumar, Bihar Chief Minister
The survey reveals Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) are numerically the largest population group in the state at 36%, followed by Other Backward Classes (OBCs) at 27.13%, Scheduled Castes (SCs) at 19.65%, unreserved general categories at 15.52% and Scheduled Tribes (STs) at 1.7%.
Start of ‘Mandal 2’ politics?
- Move signals start of ‘Mandal 2’ politics with INDIA bloc seeking national-level caste census
- Calls by Mandal parties like JD-U, RJD, SP to get louder for raising 27% OBC quota ceiling
- Demand grew after SC in 2022 upheld a 2019 constitutional amendment for 10% quota for economically weaker sections in gen category
Among the OBCs, Yadavs — the group Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav represents — are the largest, accounting for 14.27% of the population. The state has 81.99% Hindus, 17.70% Muslims, with Christians, Sikhs and Jains at numerical margins.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the JD-U hailed the survey publication, which makes Bihar the first Indian state to do so. Telangana, Odisha and Karnataka have commissioned caste surveys but none has published the statistics yet.
The move signals the commencement of ‘Mandal 2’ politics with the anti-BJP INDIA bloc (consisting of Mandal parties and the Congress) demanding a national-level caste census. Calls are also set to become louder for raising the 27% OBC quota ceiling in government jobs and educational facilities.
Mandal parties such as the JD-U, RJD, SP and DMK have argued for raising the OBC quota limit ever since the Supreme Court in November 2022 upheld a 2019 constitutional amendment piloted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government reserving 10% seats for economically weaker sections in the general category.
They contend since the 50% ceiling limit stands breached, OBCs should get reservations commensurate with their numbers.
Nitish today said the proposal for caste-based enumeration in the state was passed unanimously by all nine parties in the Assembly, entrusting the Bihar Government with conducting the survey from its own resources. The state Cabinet approved the survey on June 2, 2022.
“The survey has not only revealed castes but also given information about everyone’s economic condition. On this basis, further action will be taken for the development of all sections,” he said, adding an all-party meet had been convened on Tuesday where a presentation would be given about the report.
Importantly, Development Commissioner Bihar Vivek Singh today only unveiled the caste numbers and not the data on their socio-economic condition, which will be out later.
Tejashwi called the survey a milestone. “This survey has not only provided caste data that was pending for years but also given concrete reference to their socio-economic status. Now we will quickly ensure the overall development and participation of deprived sections. History is witness to how the BJP leadership tried to hinder this through various means,” he said, adding demands for caste census would be raised by the entire country now.
The BJP dismissed the move as an attempt to confuse the poor. Union minister and Begusarai MP Giriraj Singh said the JD-U and RJD, which ruled Bihar for 18 and 15 years, respectively, should give their report cards to the people of the state rather than mislead them with a caste survey.
The BJP for its part was already preparing to deal with Mandal parties’ poll pitch on caste census ever since the INDIA bloc moved a resolution backing caste census at their second meeting in Bengaluru.
PM Modi recently unveiled the ambitious Rs 13,000 crore Vishwakarma scheme to mainly benefit EBCs who work with hands and tools. The scheme will offer guarantee-free loans to artisans apart from training and toolkit support.
The party further plans to counter Opposition’s OBC pitch by putting out data on backward beneficiaries of government schemes and political space to OBCs in the saffron party.
“Over 29% of BJP MPs, 335 of 1,358 BJP MLAs and 40% of BJP MLCs are OBCs. Out of 75 union council of ministers, 27 are OBCs,” said BJP president JP Nadda.
Party’s OBC Morcha chief K Laxman added the Congress had historically opposed caste census. “The party even opposed grant of constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes by the PM Modi-led BJP government,” said Laxman.
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