Bihar Caste-Based Survey: A Serious Challenge for Hindutva Politicstext_fields
Patna: Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's administration published the Bihar Caste-Based Survey on October 2, the deliberately chosen day of Gandhi's Birth Anniversary. This report was prepared and released after legal hurdles and political hiccups. The major outcome of the caste survey is that the percentage of Extremely Backward Caste (EBC) is a little above 36 percent of Bihar’s total counted population of 10 crore and 70 lakhs. There are 27 percent Backward Castes in this count. Other Backward Castes (OBC) are divided into two categories in Bihar; BC and EBC.
Thus, the total population of OBC is more than 63 percent and that is said to be a major challenge to Bhartiya Janata Party’s Hindutva politics. It is not that BJP would miss their votes significantly just because of the number published in the survey but the question of representation in government jobs and educational institutions, and share in property which is also going to be announced soon.
When both the number and representation come together, the BJP will face the question of reservation according to the number and this will certainly hurt it. If the BJP supports more reservation, its upper caste base will get annoyed.
Bihar’s total population is estimated to be 13,07,25,310 according to this survey. The total population of Scheduled Castes (SC) is 2,56,89,820 which is 19.65 percent of the total population. There are 21,99,361 from Scheduled Tribes which is 1.68 percent of the total population. The total population of unreserved or general category is 2,02,91679 which forms 15.52 percent of the total population.
There are almost 82 percent Hindu population out of which 63 percent are OBCs. The population of Muslims is estimated to be 17.70 percent of the total population.
The release of the caste-based survey is being considered as a masterstroke of Nitish Kumar as he hogs the limelight for it. First, Nitish has provided a big issue for the INDIA bloc to counter BJP’s Hindutva politics. Second, Nitish himself will get prominence in the INDIA bloc which somewhat is missing as he was expected to be the convener of the opposition unity. But that is another story.
The BJP is in a catch-22 position as it is not possible to oppose the caste-based survey openly while it is ideologically opposed to it as they allege that caste-census would create caste pride strife. In Bihar, we see a division in the BJP while responding to the question of releasing the caste survey. While its upper caste leaders like Giriraj Singh do not welcome it. Mr. Singh termed the caste survey a tool to confuse while questioning the period of both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad’s tenure over development.
On the other hand, leaders like Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi want the BJP’s credit for the survey, as “BJP was in the government when the decision was taken to conduct the caste-based survey.” Mr. Modi even tells RJD chief Lalu Prasad not to take credit for the same.
The BJP leaders might be embroiled in taking a clear stand, but Nitish, Lalu and Tejashwi are firmly behind the caste survey. They demand that a caste census should be held nationwide along with the general census. They are promising that if the INDIA bloc comes to power in 2024, a caste census will be held. It may be mentioned here that the caste census at a national level can be done only by the Centre.
Lalu Prasad Yadav wrote that despite BJP’s conspiracies and legal hurdles, Bihar government released the caste-based survey on Gandhi Anniversary. He declared it a historic moment.
He said that these statistics would be an example before the country to formulate schemes for the development of the deprived and the poor and the marginalized groups according to their population ratio. He added that now the government should ensure that the people get representation according to their population.
Lalu announced, “When our government is formed in 2024, we will conduct a nationwide caste census and dethrone the BJP which is against the Dalit, Muslims, BCs and EBCs.
Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav said that the caste-based survey is a result of a decades-long struggle. He too declared it a historic moment.
In a short X post Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote, “From the Bihar caste-based survey it is revealed that there 84% OBC+SC+ST. He added, “There are only three OBCs among the 90 secretaries at the Centre. So, it is necessary to know the caste statistics of India. Rights according to the population is our pledge.”
The voters of upper castes are said to be the mainstay of the BJP, so, it is finding it very tough to support the caste-based survey. As the demand for a nationwide caste-based survey is expected to gain momentum, the OBC voters may feel disenchanted by the BJP.
The upper caste population is estimated to be 10.56 percent; Brahmins 3.65, Rajputs 3.45 percent, Bhumihars 2.86% and Kayastha 0.6 percent. There are 5.31 percent Dusadhs/Paswans, Kushwahas are 4.21 percent while Mushars/Manhis are 3.08 percent. Paswan leaders- Pashupati Paras and Chirag Paswan- Kushwaha leader Upendra Kushwaha and Manjhi leader Jitan Ram Manjhi are with the BJP in NDA.
On the other hand, Nitish Kumar enjoys popularity among the EBCs along with his own caste Kurmi which is 2.87 percent. But the major support base for him and the INDIA bloc comes from 14.26 percent of Yadvas and 17.70 percent Muslims. There are JDU, RJD, Congress and three left parties in the INDIA bloc. So, in Bihar, BJP will find it very difficult to repeat NDA’s performance of 2019 when it got 39 seats out of 40.