Chief Minister Nitish Kumar congratulated the survey team for its work
The publication of Bihar's caste survey data this afternoon sparked sharp exchanges between the ruling coalition of Janata Dal United and Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Opposition BJP. While JDU leader and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his ally and RJD patriarch Lalu Prasad Yadav termed the publication of the report "historic", leaders of the BJP called it an "eyewash".
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the publication of the report has coincided with Gandhi Jayanti and congratulated the survey team for its work. On what comes next, he said a meeting of the nine political parties in Bihar Assembly, who had unanimously voted in support of the survey, will be called soon, and they will be informed about the findings of the survey. "The caste survey has also provided information about the economic condition of various castes. Steps will be taken for the development of all communities on the basis of this data," he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The BJP was among the nine parties that had backed the caste survey exercise.
RJD founder and former Chief Minister Lalu Yadav, too, welcomed the publication of the survey report and said the exercise was completed despite "BJP's conspiracies and legal hurdles".
"These figures will set a benchmark for the country in giving representation to deprived and oppressed sections and the poor as per their population and to make policies for their development," he posted on X.
The central government, Mr Yadav said, should ensure that sections of the society get a share in development as per their numbers. "We will get a caste Census done when we form the government in 2024," said the RJD leader, who is among the prominent faces in the Opposition's INDIA bloc that plans to take on the BJP in the general election next year.
Mr Yadav's son and Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav said the publication of the report is a milestone in a decades-long struggle. "This survey has not just provided caste-based numbers, but also given a context about their socio-economic condition. Now the government will ensure all-round development on the basis of this data," he said.
Targeting the BJP, the Deputy Chief Minister added, "History is witness to how the BJP leadership tried to create hurdles. Bihar has set an example. Bihar has shown the way."
Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Giriraj Singh termed the survey report an "eyewash". "This survey is just going to spread doubts among the people," Mr Singh said.
State BJP chief Samrat Choudhary said the party will study the report in detail and then share its opinion. He stressed that the BJP had firmly supported the survey. "The BJP had given its full support to this survey. We started the work when we were part of the government in Bihar," he said.
On the findings of the survey, he said the numbers are in line with what they had expected. "But we will give an official response only after studying the methodology and mechanism followed in the survey," Mr Choudhary said.
The findings of the caste-based survey are likely to trigger demands to increase reservation of OBCs, now capped at 27 per cent. According to the survey results, backward classes account of about two-thirds of Bihar's population. The findings, which come months ahead of the general election, will also emerge as a key talking point in the run-up to the polls.
On whether he thinks quotas need to be increased in line with the survey findings, the state BJP chief said, "Babasaheb Ambedkar had introduced this provision for backward classes, then the Mandal Commission came, then Rohini Commission. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently ensured that the various findings are studied. The government will ensure whatever action is required," he said.