Bihar caste survey: Nitish Kumar to chair all-party meeting
The meeting was convened amid speculation that Bihar’s ruling alliance may propose an increase in the quota for backward castes in jobs and educational institutions
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will on Tuesday chair an all-party meeting to discuss the results of the caste survey his government announced on Monday following the completion of an exercise that can potentially upend heartland politics and propel caste into the core of the discourse ahead of the 2024 national polls.
The meeting was convened amid speculation that Bihar’s ruling alliance may propose an increase in the quota for backward castes in jobs and educational institutions proportionate to their population as per findings in the survey.
The landmark survey enumerated in a physical government headcount all castes for the first time since Independence and showed backward communities comprise nearly two-thirds of Bihar’s population. India’s decennial census only counts the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The survey showed that extremely backward communities (ECB) comprising 112 castes constituted 36.01% of the population, and backward castes (30 communities) made up another 27.12%. Together, other backward classes (OBC), the umbrella group consisting of backward castes and EBCs in the state, is 63.13%. SC form 19.65% and ST 1.68%.
EBCs get 18% reservation, while backward classes 12%, SC 16%, ST 1%, women from backward sections 3% in jobs and educational institutions.
Hours after the results were released, Kumar on Monday said he had called the meeting, where officials would give a presentation on the processes involved in the collection of the data. “ There will be discussions on the aspects of the caste survey report. We will seek the opinion of the parties and take necessary steps.”
Representatives of all nine parties, including the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), represented in the state assembly were expected to attend the meeting.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a constituent of the state’s ruling alliance, has demanded a higher quota for backward classes. RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav reiterated the demand on Monday after the release of the survey report. In a post in X, Yadav said that the data would help in tailoring schemes for the weaker, oppressed sections and give representation to all sections as per their population.
RJD spokesman Chittaranjan Gagans said not only the numerical strength of the caste groups but also their educational, economic, and social status are likely to be discussed at the meeting. “This is the first time such an exercise was done and it would help in making new schemes and government interventions for those who are at the bottom of the social ladder both economically and socially.”
The opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) has pushed for a nationwide caste census to counter the BJP’s mobilisation of less-dominant backward and Dalit groups into a broader Hindu umbrella. The BJP has included marginalised caste leaders into its ranks, countering an earlier perception that the party was primarily focused on its traditional vote base, upper castes.
State BJP chief Samrat Choudhary, who maintained they have always supported the caste survey, said they will study the report. BJP Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi echoed Choudhary and added the decision to carry caste survey was taken when his party was part of the ruling alliance in Bihar before Kumar formed the government with the help of RJD, Congress, and the Left parties.