Bihar caste census: The caste survey in Bihar was released on Monday (October 2) divulging that the OBCs and EBCs constitute a whopping 63 per cent of the state’s total population, a number which could hugely leave its impact on the strategies of the political parties and outcome of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls which is now not too far away.
In a historic first, the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government released the caste census of the state today, which is also one of the agendas of the Opposition’s I.N.D.I.A bloc that has come together aiming to defeat the BJP in the next year’s general elections.
The caste survey in Bihar may well prove to be a gamechanger for Nitish Kumar and RJD in the forthcoming elections in the Hindi heartland where caste politics remains at the centre-stage of polling.
Findings of caste survey
According to the data released here by Development Commissioner Vivek Singh, Bihar’s total population is a little above 13.07 crore, of which the Extremely Backward Classes constitute the largest social segment (36 per cent) followed by the Other Backward Classes (27.13 per cent).
Dalits, also known as Scheduled Castes (SCs) accounted for 19.65 per cent and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) 1.68 per cent. The general (unreserved) category comprise 15.52 per cent of the total population in the state.
Yadavs, the OBC group and the community which RJD leader and Nitish Kumar’s Deputy Tejashwi Yadav belongs to, constitutes 14.27 per cent of the state’s population. Brahmins make up 3.66 per cent, Musahars 3 per cent, Kurmis 2.87 per cent and Bhumihars 2.86 per cent.
The Bihar government began the survey of households in January this year and the second phase of the census commenced on April 15. The exercise was completed on August 13 this year.
Impact of survey on 2024 outcome
Bihar, being a politically charged state, promises to showcase an interesting battle in the Lok Sabha elections, especially with Nitish Kumar back in the Mahagathbandhan and Chirag Paswan returning to the NDA.
The revelations of the caste survey may well prompt the political parties to rethink and tweak their strategies in the state which sends 40 MPs to the Parliament.
In the 2019 general elections, in which the political equations were different with Nitish Kumar there in the NDA, the BJP-JDU alliance had won 39 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, leaving the RJD gasping for breath. The lone seat won by Congress in the state was in Kishanganj.
However, with the changed political scenarios between the 2019 and 2024 elections, the results could vary in 2024. However, the BJP is targeting to sweep Bihar next year despite losing Kumar from its folds. Whereas, JDU with the support of RJD and Congress in Bihar, who are also partners in the I.N.D.I.A bloc, is looking to increase its tally next year.
The caste census will compel the parties, running into the Lok Sabha polls, to strategise and plan the candidates as per the caste equation of the respective sections of the constituency.
The Opposition may also mount pressure on the Centre to conduct a nation-wide caste survey, and could use the BJP's stance on the issue politically in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, which are now less than a year away.
Will the Bihar caste survey force others to follow suit?
Caste census has been in the Opposition agenda for long with parties like Congress, Samajwadi Party advocating in its favour. They have called for a nation-wide caste census, a move which the BJP has opposed time and again, in Bihar and at the national level.
Rahul Gandhi termed the caste census an “X-ray of India”.
Akhilesh Yadav also demanded the caste census stating that it will ensure that all communities get their due share in the development. However, the BJP has cited "technical reasons" behind not conducting a caste census.
Now with the caste survey in Bihar out in the open, Opposition-ruled states may follow suit, though it is not clear if the BJP will follow the path of its former ally JDU in this regard.
How did the leaders react to the survey findings?
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said that the data of the survey will help to make appropriate policies for the people from every section.
He said that an all-party meeting will be called tomorrow and the figures will be shared with them.
“A meeting will soon be convened of all the nine political parties with an electoral presence in the state legislature and the facts and figures will be shared with them,” he said.
RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav, who has been instrumental besides Nitish Kumar in bringing all Opposition parties onboard a single platform, also said that the survey will set the tone for a “nationwide caste census which will be undertaken when we form the next government at the Centre”.
Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Giriraj Singh on Monday said that a caste-based survey will create 'bhram' (illusion) among the public of Bihar.
"The caste-based survey will do nothing more than spreading 'bhram' among the poor and public at large in Bihar. They should have given a report card that Nitish Kumar who ruled the state for 18 years and Lalu Yadav ruled the state for 15 years but did not develop the state. The data of caste survey is just an eye wash," the Union Minister said.
The Nitish Kumar government ordered the survey after the Narendra Modi government at the Centre clarified that it would not be able to undertake a headcount of castes other than SCs and STs as part of the census. The headcount of all castes was undertaken last time way back in 1931.