Committed to holding caste census: BJP MP

Updated on Aug 26, 2021 04:45 AM IST

Munde said that the BJP was not the kind of party that said one thing in opposition and then changed its position in government. Munde’s words come at a time when the demand for a caste census has grown louder .

Committed to holding caste census: BJP MP
Committed to holding caste census: BJP MP
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s member of Parliament from Maharashtra, Pritam Munde, also the daughter of one of the party’s most prominent Other Backward Class(OBC) leaders, the late Gopinath Munde, has reiterated the ruling party’s commitment to conduct a caste census, as articulated by her father on the floor of Parliament in March, 2011.

Munde said that the BJP was not the kind of party that said one thing in opposition and then changed its position in government. Munde’s words come at a time when the demand for a caste census has grown louder .

The demand is supported by some members of the BJP itself, many of its allies, including the Janata Dal United, and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, friendly parties such as the Biju Janata Dal and the YSR Congress, and almost the entire Opposition.

The government itself has not explicitly taken a stand on the issue, give its sensitivity and the possibility that it could trigger a backlash, both from OBCs that lose out on benefits if th reservation formula is redefined following the census, and from upper castes that fear the survey could be a precursor to breaching the 50% limit for reservations.

“My father was deputy leader of opposition when he spoke about it. It does not matter if you are in the opposition or in the ruling party as long as you feel for a cause. I don’t think we are that sort of party who come into power and then change their agenda or manifesto’’ Munde said.

“When you already have reservation depending on caste system, then you need to know the total number of people belonging to a particular community. We do believe it should be done else how are we going to decide how much to reserve. Who decides OBCs are 27%?’’

To be sure, the 27% number was arrived despite the Mandal commission estimating the OBC share of the population at 52% to ensure reservations did not breach the 50% ceiling mandated by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case. People belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes get 22.5% reservation for jobs and admission to educational institutions.

In 2011, Gopinath Munde made a 20 minute speech in parliament where he put forth his party’s position on why an OBC census is required. In an emotive speech , and cheered on by other Opposition members, he said OBCs were wronged by having just one census in 1931.

Interestingly the 2011 Census was accompanied by a caste census but its findings were never made public. The government claimed this was on account of inaccuracies in data gathering but it is likely political compulsions stayed its hand.

Munde’s speech is now being referred to by those within the BJP who support the idea, including former Bihar deputy chief minister, and Rajya Sabha member Sushil Modi.

”I have never come across anybody who is opposing this concept,’’ said Munde. “In the general census, in forms they ask you if you belong to SC or ST community, but no columns for OBC. If SC/ST need to be counted, then OBC should also be counted.’’

When all parties from Bihar met the Prime Minister this week, he heard out all the leaders and the government is expected to take a call on a survey soon.

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    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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