The recent release of caste-based census data by the Bihar government has set off a heated political debate, with leaders from various parties weighing in on its implications for social justice and political representation. The data reveals that the backward class constitutes a significant 63 percent of Bihar’s population, leading to discussions about potential quota expansions and equitable representation.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had promised to release the full report in one and a half months, has hinted at the possibility of breaking the existing cap of 50 percent for job quotas. This move has made the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) uneasy, with some members expressing dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s response to the survey.
The Congress general secretary, Jairam Ramesh, accused the BJP of avoiding social justice by not conducting a caste census across the entire country. He asserted that the data reveals the pressing need for equitable representation and opportunities for all communities.
Ajay Yadav, the chairman of Congress’s Other Backward Classes (OBC) department, highlighted that the caste census results have raised significant questions about the current state of social justice in the country. He emphasized that this census is crucial for the welfare of Bihar’s underprivileged population.
The release of Bihar’s caste-based census data has shifted the political landscape in the country. It has underscored the significance of communities that cannot be ignored politically, economically, or socially. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress party, tweeted that OBCs, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes constitute 84 percent of the population, yet their representation in the government remains disproportionately low.
Lalu Prasad Yadav, the president of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), echoed the sentiment, stating, “Participation should be in accordance with the population.” Akhilesh Yadav, the chief of the Samajwadi Party, also supported the release of the caste census data and advocated for a similar exercise nationwide.
According to the survey report, OBCs and extremely backward castes (EBCs) make up 63 percent of Bihar’s population, while Scheduled Castes (SCs) account for 19.65 percent. The upper castes (general category) constitute 15.52 percent, including around 5 percent upper caste Muslims, and Muslims as a whole account for 17.70 percent of the state’s population.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has emerged as a key figure in the INDIA bloc, which now comprises nearly 30 parties, most with strong regional influence. Kumar’s role in bringing together leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, and Akhilesh Yadav has reshaped the political landscape.
In response to the caste census data, the Narendra Modi government introduced the Women’s Reservation Bill in a special session of parliament, with the condition that it would be implemented after conducting the census and a delimitation exercise. This move has further intensified discussions about representation and quotas in Indian politics.
As the political discourse around caste-based census data continues to evolve, the future of social justice and political representation in India remains uncertain, with potential changes on the horizon in Bihar and beyond.