Bihar has become the first state to release data from a caste-based survey. The report indicates 36 per cent of the population are from Extremely Backward Classes, 27.1 per cent are from Backward Classes, 19.7 per cent are from Scheduled Castes and 1.7 per cent are from Scheduled Tribes. The general population is 15.5 per cent. The state's total population is over 13.1 crore.
The survey also said the Yadav community - the group to which Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav belongs - is the largest sub-group, accounting for 14.27 per cent of all OBC categories.
The report's fallout, which will almost certainly kick-up a political row, will likely also include calls to increase quotas for OBCs, which is capped now at 27 per cent. According to the data - released months before the 2024 Lok Sabha election, they are now 63.1 per cent of the state.
The report underlines the numerical superiority and electoral influence of OBCs in Bihar.
Minutes after the data was released Chief Minister Nitish Kumar posted on X (formerly Twitter) to hail the release of data on Gandhi Jayanti (Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary).
"Soon a meeting of the nine parties in the Bihar Assembly (including the Deputy Chief Minister's Rashtriya Janata Dal and allies-turned-fierce rivals BJP) will be called regarding caste-based census in Bihar. They will be informed about the results..." Nitish Kumar said.
The Chief Minister's Janata Dal (United) said the Bihar government had "created history".
Tejashwi Yadav called the report a "watershed" moment and the result of "decades of struggle". "Now both the policies and intentions of the government will respect (this) data..." he said.
Mr Yadav's father and party boss Lalu Prasad Yadav also reacted. The former Chief Minister also hailed the release on Gandhi Jayanti and said, "Despite many conspiracies of the BJP, legal hurdles and all the conspiracies, today Bihar government released caste-based survey (data)."
The BJP's reaction, however, has been predictably critical, with Giriraj Singh, a Union Minister and Lok Sabha MP from Bihar, slamming the caste-based survey report as "eyewash".
Samrat Choudhary, the party's state boss, told NDTV "BJP had given full support to this survey" and claimed work on it had begun back when it was still allied with the JDU. "We will give an official response only after studying the methodology and mechanism followed in the survey."
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On increasing OBC quotas - in line with the survey findings - he said, "Babasaheb Ambedkar had introduced this provision... then Mandal Commission, Rohini Commission. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently ensured various findings are studied. Government will take action required."
In August, after the exercise was completed, Mr Kumar stressed the survey will be "beneficial for all" and "enable the development of various sections of society, including the deprived".
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Also in August, when pressed on some political parties opposing the caste-based headcount, the Chief Minister said the exercise had been ordered with the support of all state parties.
This cross-party support, he indicated then, included the BJP.
The opposition has pressed the centre for a national caste-based survey or headcount, and this has been announced as a key demand of the mega INDIA bloc; at present, though, there are also divisions within the group on this count after the Trinamool Congress raised objections.
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Rahul Gandhi, whose party is a member of INDIA, last week said the Congress would implement a similar exercise should they win the Madhya Pradesh election likely in November.
READ |Will Conduct Caste Census If Voted To Power: Rahul Gandhi In Madhya Pradesh
The release of this data comes as the Supreme Court continues to hear petitions challenging a Patna High Court's judgment order that called the exercise "perfectly valid".
The court had refused an interim stay unless critics made out a prima facie case.
The decision to conduct a caste survey was taken by the Bihar government in June last year.