File Photo: LJP Leaders Chirag and Ram Vilas Paswan with BJP chief Amit Shah. (Press Trust of India)
Pitching for a comprehensive classification of caste data before its release, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today said once in public domain it will hit leaders like Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar the most.
Mr Paswan, Lok Janshakti Party chief, also claimed the Extremely Backward Castes among the OBCs have shifted allegiance to the NDA led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"LJP's demand is that even if there is some delay, the government should make the caste data public only after its thorough classification. The categorisation will take time but when it is out, those who are making the maximum noise over it will be hit the hardest," he said.
Bihar's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who have stitched up an alliance for the state Assembly polls, have been insisting on the data being released immediately.
Parties like Samajwadi Party, JD(U), RJD and DMK have criticised the Centre for not releasing the caste-based data in the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), the first in eight decades since 1912.
The government on Thursday set up an expert group headed by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Dr Arvind Panagariya to collate caste count and blamed the states for not being able to complete the
consolidation of different categories.
"Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, who have benefited from Mandal politics, will be the big losers as other smaller castes among backwards, who together numerically outnumber some particular dominant upper castes, will seek their share of power," Mr Paswan told PTI in an interview.
Mr Paswan, who was a member of the VP Singh Cabinet when Mandal Commission's recommendations were implemented, also said the NDA, of which he is a part now, will win Bihar polls hands down if the data comes out.
On Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar's contention that Narendra Modi was not the first OBC Prime Minister as claimed by BJP chief Amit Shah, Mr Paswan said former PM HD Deve Gowda was a
Vokkaliga, which is a powerful community in Karnataka.
"Modi's caste falls under extremely backdward castes (EBC) in Gujarat," he said and exuded confidence that EBCs will vote for NDA.
Quoting from Ram Manohar Lohia's book "Wheel of History", the Union Minister said the late socialist leader had predicted that power will first transfer from upper castes to powerful castes among OBCs, but if the dominant castes among OBCs behave in the same manner with the lower castes, the lower castes will ally with upper castes again.
Mr Paswan said it was witnessed in Uttar Pradesh when Dalits and upper castes, especially Brahmins, joined hands with Jatavs under Mayawati.
"It will happen in Bihar as well. Upper castes, extremely backward castes, dalits and mahadalits have already come together. It was visible in the last Lok Sabha polls. It will happen again," he said.
Both Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar belong to dominant castes among OBCs, who thrived politically in the post-Mandal politics.
The dalit leader also said Nitish Kumar's call for a 'Luv-Kush unity' will not fructify. Luv-Kush unity signifies coming together of the Kurmis, Nitish Kumar's caste, and Kushwahas, who had once joined hands against Lalu Prasad.
"I want to ask what Kush got during Nitish's rule. Upendra Kushwaha had to part ways with him and now he is a Union minister," he said.
Mr Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, which broke away from JD(U), is a part of the NDA.
Asserting that JD(U)-RJD alliance has "no future", the LJP president claimed Yadavs will not vote for candidates of Nitish Kumar's party.
"Past experience shows that Laluji fails to get his votes transferred to other alliance partners. His vote base never voted for LJP candidates when we fought in alliance with Lalu," he said.
He also said Yadavs voted for Lalu's party when he used to be the chief ministerial candidate. "Why will they vote for Nitish Kumar?" he asked.