Citing the findings of the Bihar caste survey, leaders of the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) on October 2 reiterated their demand for conducting a countrywide caste census to ensure “social justice” to the deprived classes.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha election next year, parties belonging to the INDIA bloc have made the demand for a caste census and OBC outreach their most visible political strategy.
At the INDIA meeting in Mumbai, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim of being a champion of the the Other Backward Classes was one of the wrong perceptions that the bloc should unravel.
Reacting to the release of the Bihar caste survey, Mr. Gandhi on October 2 reiterated that the rights of a community should be in proportion to its numbers in a society.
Mr. Gandhi, in a post on X, said the Bihar data revealed that OBCs, Scheduled Castes (SC), and Scheduled Tribes (ST) together made up 84% in the State.
“Out of 90 secretaries of the Central government, only three are OBC, who handle only 5% of India’s budget! Therefore, it is important to know the caste statistics of India. The greater the population, the greater the rights — this is our pledge,” he said.
His post reflected the stance taken by the party’s highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which called for increasing the ceiling for reservation from the existing 50%.
In a resolution, the CWC noted that the Narendra Modi government’s stubborn refusal to conduct a caste census “exposed the BJP’s lack of commitment to social and economic justice and its bias against the backward classes, Dalits and tribal people”.
“In this context, the CWC also calls for increasing the existing upper limit of reservations for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and OBCs,” the resolution said.
Welcoming the move of the Bihar government, Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh said a similar survey was done earlier by the party in Karnataka but now a caste census across the country was needed.
“Such a Census has become essential for providing a firmer foundation for social empowerment programmes and for deepening social justice,” Mr. Ramesh said on X.
Countering the BJP’s assertion that the caste census can be divisive, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said, “The caste census is not a struggle of 85-15 instead it will open new road of cooperation.”
Those who believe in an egalitarian society would support it. Revealing each community’s numerical strength is about giving them a new self-confidence and creating a social consciousness, he added.
Applauding Bihar for showing the way, CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, in a post on X, said, “Day in & out Modi castigates INDIA parties as anti-OBC claiming himself as champion! Yet, he rejects conducting a case census. Delays 2021 Census fearing facing caste realities.”
Communist Party of India general secretary D. Raja said, “This data will help the govt. in making policies accurately with concrete understanding of deprivations. Such exercises are needed in other States too for scientific & evidence-based policy making.”
(With inputs from Sobhana K. Nair)