If the Central government does not hold a caste-based Census, then a discussion may be initiated on carrying out an exercise to enumerate caste data at the state level in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said today. He took the stance days after failing to elicit any response to a letter he wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter.
Speaking to reporters in Patna today, Chief Minister Kumar reiterated the demand for a Census that takes into account India's caste variations, something the Bihar Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution on in 2019 and again in 2020.
"It must be understood that the decision has to be taken by the Centre. We expressed our demand. This is nothing political, this is a social matter," Mr Kumar said.
When asked if the state would hold a similar exercise if the Centre doesn't, he said, "Then we will discuss it here, isn't it?"
The Chief Minister said he had written to Prime Minister Modi on the matter and his office had received the correspondence on August 4. He said, however, that there had been no response since then.
"The Prime Minister has, meanwhile, made time to meet others like Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and even Nitish Kumar's own cabinet colleague Santosh Manjhi," sources in the JDU, Mr Kumar's party, told NDTV.
Fresh demands for caste-based census have been triggered by a statement by the Centre in Parliament recently that an exercise to ascertain the population of only Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was under consideration.
This has led to a churn in Bihar politics. Most prominent political leaders of the state, including Mr Kumar and his rival Lalu Prasad, belong to the numerically powerful other backward castes.
The state BJP, which has in the past backed the demand for a caste-based Census, now seems to be equivocal in view of a different stance adopted by its top leadership. It is aware and wary of the possibility that the political benefits of such a Census would accrue more to parties like the JDU and the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal and leaders aligned more to the ideologies of these outfits.
If such an exercise is held, the Chief Minister, meanwhile, said today, there will be data on castes, their native areas, their "condition" etc, based on which developmental schemes could be designed.
"The matter is being debated in various states. Our party's MPs, too, have demanded it. They informed the respected Prime Minister, too. He then asked them to discuss it with the Union Home Minister."
The Chief Minister then said that since two resolutions were unanimously passed by the Bihar Assembly on the matter, it was the people's wish that he took it up with the Prime Minister.