The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party on Monday hailed the caste census conducted by the Bihar government and called for such an exercise to be undertaken throughout India.
The Bihar government launched the caste survey in January after the Centre said it would not undertake such an exercise for communities other than the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as part of the decennial Census.
The findings of the survey released on Monday showed that the Extremely Backward Classes account for 36% of the state’s 13.07 crore population and the Other Backward Class 27.13%.
It also showed that the population of the Scheduled Castes stood at 19.7% and the Scheduled Tribes at 1.7%. Bihar’s general population accounted for the remaining 15.5%.
Bihar’s ruling coalition, mainly comprising the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, has argued that a caste survey will help identify the true population of the Other Backward Classes and other castes, allowing the state to craft policies for them more efficiently and equitably.
Hours after the findings were made public, Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh reiterated his party’s demand that the Union government conduct a national caste census.
“The UPA-2 government had, in fact, completed this census but its results were not published by the Modi government,” Ramesh said on X, referring to the previous United Progressive Alliance government. “Such a Census has become essential for providing a firmer foundation for social empowerment programmes and for deepening social justice.”
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi noted that while the Bihar census shows that OBCs, SCs and STs together form 84% of the population, there are only three OBC secretaries out of 90 at the Centre who handle 5% of India’s budget.
“Therefore, it is important to know the caste statistics of India,” he added. “The greater the population, the greater the rights – this is our pledge.”
Communist Party of India General Secretary D Raja said the data will help the government in making policies “accurately with concrete understanding of deprivations”, reported the Deccan Herald.
“Such exercises are needed in other states too for scientific and evidence-based policy making,” he added.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was running away from conducting a similar exercise nationally.
“They have always been anti-OBC, Dalit, tribal and under-privileged,” he said, referring to the BJP government. “That is why they are running away from this. If you want to do justice with backward classes and minorities in the country, you must have a caste census.”
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar lauded the publication of the survey’s findings. “Caste census not only revealed the castes, but also gave information about the economic condition of everyone,” Kumar said on social media platform X. “On this basis, further action will be taken for the development and upliftment of all sections.”
The BJP, however, contended that the caste survey would only create an “illusion” among citizens and urged the state government to account for its own work instead.
“They [the state’s ruling alliance] should have given a report card of the work done by Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav, but instead they have issued this report of caste survey, which will do nothing except for creating an illusion amongst the public,” BJP leader Giriraj Singh told PTI.
State BJP president Samrat Choudhary said that his party had given its consent for the exercise and would assess the findings before making a statement, reported PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without mentioning the census, said at a poll rally in Madhya Pradesh that the Opposition has played with the “emotions of the poor” and divided the country on caste lines for six decades. He said that this was a “sin” that is being committed now as well.
Lok Janshakti Party chief Chirag Paswan alleged that Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) was trying to divide the people of the state, reported Mint.
“We had said earlier that JD(U) will be segmented and in the coming days, JD(U) will be wiped out...Some people in Bihar are creating a divide on the basis of caste and religion,” he added. “People of the state do not trust CM Nitish Kumar due to his policies.”