Caste Survey in Bihar: National Political Implications
Asia News Agency
There is a view that the caste survey being conducted in Bihar, is only for political gains, given that the Lok Sabha elections are just 16 months away. The other view os that it will prove useful for the social and economic development of the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
The need for numbers
Whatever the motive of the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, Sanjay Kumar (Professor at CSDS) and Vishakha Nandini (final year law student at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun) write it “is an undeniable fact that we need data. Without numbers, neither can political parties put forth their arguments for the need of certain policies or quotas convincingly, nor can the government effectively provide support through policies and programmes for specific communities. This is why a census is essential. It is the best way to count the number of people belonging to a community and determine their socioeconomic status……”
One objective is the determine the OBC population in Bihar to fine tune welfare schemes. The Centre is against the exercise.
While the first phase of the survey was completed in January; the entire exercise will complete by May. The two authors say this survey “will have political implications. By conducting this survey, the Janata Dal (United)-Rashtriya Janata Dal (FJD) government has sent out a clear message that it is interested in addressing the social and economic backwardness of the OBCs. The two parties are sure to reap some electoral dividends from this, especially since both have sizeable support among OBC voters. Through this exercise, the RJD and the JD(U) have provided some hope to the OBCs that their plight can be improved. It would not be surprising if parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Biju Janata Dal, which are also splinter parties of the Janata Dal, initiate this process in their States if they are in power, or put pressure on their State government to conduct the census.”
The BJP’s opposition
It is unclear why the BJP is opposed to the exercise given that is has made huge inroads into the OBC community, especially the lower OBC voter base, across the country. Evidence from surveys by Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies shows that the BJP got 44% of the OBC votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections compared to just 22% in 2009. The caste census initiated by the Central government would have only given positive signals to the OBC community, feel the two authors.