BJP stand on caste census puts JD(U) in tight spot

Not consulted, says Bihar ally, which has been leading the charge for enumeration

Updated - September 25, 2021 12:21 am IST

Published - September 24, 2021 08:05 pm IST - New Delhi

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has so far maintained a studied silence on government’s affidavit. File.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has so far maintained a studied silence on government’s affidavit. File.

The Narendra Modi government’s submission in the Supreme Court (SC) on the caste census not being feasible, has put key NDA ally, the Janata Dal (United) in a difficult position. This is the first time that the Narendra Modi government has clearly voiced its stand on the caste census.

“We are sad and angry that the government has decided to take a stand in the Supreme Court without consulting the allies,” JD(U) secretary general K.C. Tyagi said.


Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a strident advocate for a caste census, has argued that enumeration of the backward castes is key for effective implementation of welfare programmes. However, he has so far maintained a studied silence on government’s affidavit.

The JD(U) has been leading the march on the issue but the baton could easily slip from its hands to the opposition parties. On July 31, the party’s national executive passed a resolution in favour of the caste census and on August 23, Mr. Kumar led a cross-party delegation of all floor leaders in the Bihar Assembly to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press for a caste census.

The JD (U)’s main rival in Bihar, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is set to use the government affidavit to corner both the BJP and the JD(U), sources said. The government’s stand also gives a window to the Samajwadi Party which is desperately looking to make inroads into the OBC votebank ahead of the Uttar Pradesh polls.

Senior RJD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj K. Jha said the government’s affidavit clearly exposes the government’s reluctance to respect the sentiments of people.

“This affidavit from the government is based on a false narrative. A narrative that is brazenly denying the people’s rights to know the critical reality in terms of the socio-economic data. It is not a political question. People of the country must know in the 75th year of our independence how many of us are genuinely free,” Mr. Jha said.

A more belligerent stand by the JD(U) on the subject could cast a shadow on their ties with BJP. Mr Tyagi though pointed out that BJP leaders themselves have spoken in favour of the caste census including BJP MP from Badaun Sanghamitra Maurya who spoke in support of the backward headcount in Parliament during the monsoon Session.

“Ultimately our viewpoint will prevail,” Mr. Tyagi added.

The Congress also criticised the government’s affidavit saying that this exposes the Modi government’s insensitivity towards the backward classes. Senior Congress leader Veerapa Moily, who heads a special committee of Congress to debate the caste census, said the government cannot continue to work based on imaginary statistics extrapolating from the 1931 census.

The first sitting of the committee took place last week.

“The government simply does not care for the backward caste. It is misleading to say that such a survey is not possible. If data on SC and ST can be collected then why not on backward castes,” Mr. Moily told The Hindu .

The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government in 2011 undertook a Socio-Economic Caste Census to get data on the caste and economic status of every household in the country. After the change of regime to the NDA in 2014, the socio-economic data from the census was made public in 2015 but the caste data was withheld, citing discrepancies. Despite repeated demands, the Centre has refused to divulge the data on caste.

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