3 Oct 2023

Bihar: How Caste based census results affect country's politics

Patna: Caste census data has been released in Bihar. According to these data, the total population of Bihar has been stated as 13 crore 7 lakh 25 thousand 310.

Earlier, caste census data was released in the country in 1931. From then till today, no caste census data was released either at the country level or at the state level.

Regional parties got support of OBC voters

In post-Mandal Commission politics, a large number of very strong regional parties emerged. Especially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. RJD and JDU raised the issue of OBC in Bihar and Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and they were successful in getting overwhelming support from OBC voters. In reality, OBC voters became the main supporters of regional parties in large numbers.

BJP's popularity among OBC voters has increased in the last few elections. The BJP was more successful in wooing the lower OBCs than the dominant OBCs in many states of North India. Therefore, even though BJP may have gained electoral advantage by reaching out to the OBCs, its support among them is not as strong as it is among the upper class and upper castes.

According to the data released by the Bihar government on Monday, the largest population in the state is of extremely backward class (EBC), which is about 36 percent of the total population of the state.

The work of caste -based census in Bihar has not been easy. Such a census was also challenged in the court and the matter reached Patna High Court and then to the Supreme Court.

After the release of caste -based census figures in Bihar, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has also commented.

Rahul Gandhi on Monday reiterated his demand to give people rights based on their population.

"The caste census of Bihar has revealed that obc + sc + st are 84% there. OUT of 90 Secretaries of the Central Government, Only 3 Are OBC, Who Handle only 5% of India's Budget, "Rahul Gandhi Posted on 'X' (Formerly Twitter).

In Bihar, the government has been claiming that the caste -based census data will help the government to plan for the needy people.

Different parties in the race to take credit

After the data is released, different parties are also involved in the race to take credit for it.

RJD leader and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav says that these figures have also revealed the economic status of every class. Now we have to ensure economic justice and the government will try to make a special plan on the basis of data and benefit people,
Tejashwi said.

Janata Dal United Chief Spokesperson Neeraj Kumar has claimed that Nitish Kumar does what he says but BJP was trying to stop it.


BJP has been cautious


There is an assumption that the caste survey will create a strong political echo in the country, with more regional parties demanding the same for their respective states. 

It is a big challenge for the current ruling coalition led by BJP to prevent the OBC voters from moving away from it. Many surveys indicate that BJP has made rapid inroads among the OBC castes.

In the 2009 general elections, BJP got 22% OBC votes, which doubled in 10 years. In the last Lok Sabha elections, BJP got 44% OBC votes. At the same time, the share of regional parties decreased from 42% votes in 2009 to 27%.

The BJP have been cautious of stirring up a hornets’ nest. In fact, Union minister of state for home affairs Nityanand Rai has already stated in the Rajya Sabha that the central government had no plans to collect caste data in the next census either.

It is believed that BJP's fear of a caste census is that it may anger its voters from upper castes, apart from this it may disintegrate BJP's traditional Hindu vote bank.

Nevertheless, the BJP has been seen trying its hands at social engineering in Bihar and installed Kushwaha leader Samrat Choudhary as its state unit president in March besides roping in Upendra Kushwaha as an alliance partner in February.


But the Bihar caste survey has somewhat also exposed the limitations of such a strategy, as the details have pegged Kushwaha (Koiree) caste numbers to just about 4.21 per cent, which can be numerically significant but may not be decisive across the state.


'BJP has worked for the castes'


BJP MP Sanjay Jaiswal claims that in the last 33 years, we worked for the castes that Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar could not work for. For the caste census in Bihar, BJP's Finance Minister had released 500 crore rupees in the state and we were together everywhere, Jaiswal said.

Sanjay Jaiswal alleged, “Nitish and Lalu have committed a crime in this census that they have included the upper castes of Muslims like Kulhadia, Sher Shahbadi in the EBCs. Many minorities have been deliberately included so that the most backward Hindus can be denied the benefits.”


In the politics of Bihar, the upper castes were earlier dominant, after that the OBC community has had an impact in the politics here. Now the figures that have come, the Extremely Backward Class or EBC community can say that the next turn is theirs and in Bihar, this class can claim its new participation in politics.

What the Opposition wants to achieve?

The last authentic data of OBC is from the 1931 census. After this, the data of Socio Economic Census of 2011 was not made public. In such a situation, the demand for caste census can create political uproar. According to 100 years old data of 1931, there is 52% OBC population in the country. But it is believed that their real population could be more as their population is not less than 45% in any state. In some states OBC population is more than 60%.

If caste census is conducted then the real figures will be revealed. On the basis of this, the central list of OBC will also have to be revised. Besides, the demand for increasing the 27% reservation currently given to backward castes according to their population will also intensify.

In the name of social justice, the Opposition is trying to put pressure on BJP and bring backward votes in its favor by raising the issue of caste census in the 2024 elections.

INDIA Alliance is dominated by regional parties and these parties are very vocal about the reservation of OBCs. Congress and the opposition estimate that if even 4 to 5% of the backward class voters shift in their favour, there could be a big upheaval.

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