Eye On Non-Yadav Vote, Nitish Kumar Steps Into Quota Debate

Nitish Kumar said said he doesn't "find anything wrong" in demanding enhanced quota for the Other Backward Castes.

Eye On Non-Yadav Vote, Nitish Kumar Steps Into Quota Debate

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the next census should focus on caste data.


Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar - who welcomed the new law for 10 per cent quota for the economically weaker sections in the general category - today advocated enhanced quota for the Other Backward Classes, which form a large section of his support base.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Patna, Mr Kumar said he doesn't "find anything wrong in such demand". He, however, added that for now, "We are bound by the Supreme Court cap of 50 per cent on quota for OBC and SC/STs".

Earlier this month, Mr Kumar's two lawmakers supported the bill for 10 per cent quota, which was passed by both houses of parliament within just two days. The Chief Minster has said Bihar will be among the first to implement the new law.

His balancing act is seen as a counter to Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal - which voted against the quota bill, seen as benefitting the upper castes - and an attempt to draw in the non-Yadav votes.

The RJD, which also has a considerable support base among the Other Backward Classes, demanded a bigger chunk of quota for them. "If 10 per cent quota is being set aside for the 15 per cent upper castes, there should be 90 per cent reservation for the remaining 85 per cent population," party leader Tejashwi Yadav had argued.

The RJD stand had spelled discomfort for ally Congress and a few others, which are grooming a broader support base that includes a chunk of upper castes. Most opposition parties have been cautious - pushing for pause and scrutiny of the bill. In parliament, many ended up supporting the bill.

Mr Kumar today said it was time that the official caste data in the country, which dates back to the 1931 census, be updated. The next census, he said, should focus on caste data.

"In my view, the population of social segments such as SCs, STs and OBCs should be taken into account in the next census. Based on its report, the nation can move towards ensuring proportional representation for various castes," he added.

Besides Mr Kumar, other BJP allies like Apna Dal have sought more benefits for the Other Backward Castes. Although the government had toyed with such an idea earlier, it was eventually dropped for fear of a possible backlash.

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