BJP support for OBC census
Openly taking a line that has hitherto been associated with regional parties, the BJP has come out in favour of an OBC headcount in Census 2011.
“We support a headcount for OBCs in the coming census," senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu told HT on Monday. “What is wrong in having details of the OBC segment of our population?”
“The government should know what the numbers of OBCs are in this country,” said Deputy Leader of the Opposition Gopinath Munde.
This comes at a time when the UPA — which had adopted a pro-OBC agenda when Arjun Singh brought OBC quotas to higher education — has turned the other way in its second avatar.
The government has not only rejected OBC census but is also on a confrontation path with OBC leaders, refusing sub-quotas in the women’s Bill and not tabling the Ranganath Mishra report that calls for minorities to be given part of OBCs’ quota pie. For the BJP, this is an opportunity to reach out to the Hindu OBCs as “their” party.
Munde, an OBC, has already denounced the Ranganath Mishra report as anti-OBC and even called for OBC sub-quotas in the women’s Bill.
There has been no caste headcount except for SCs and STs after 1931 and all population estimates for OBCs are just that: estimates. They vary from 52% (Mandal Commission) to 40% (National Sample Survey).
The numbers are important for OBC politics, as they claim that they constitute the majority of India and, so, have a right to claim their share in power. They also argue that the government must know the numbers to focus on OBC schemes.
The BJP had made inroads into OBC votes in UP in the 1990s, but has lost them over time. It also threw out OBC leaders like Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti. However, the party has powerful OBC CMs in Narendra Modi and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.