"Wanted To Meet PM, No Response Yet": Nitish Kumar's Caste Census Push

Nitish Kumar says worries that a caste census will upset some people are without basis. "No tension will be created in the society. There will be happiness," he said.

'Wanted To Meet PM, No Response Yet': Nitish Kumar's Caste Census Push

A caste census "is in everyone's interest", Nitish Kumar said (File)

New Delhi:

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, pressing for a caste-based census in the state, said on Thursday he had requested an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the subject but had not received a response till now.

MPs of Mr Kumar's Janata Dal United (JDU) had earlier been denied a meeting with PM Modi and had been told they should meet with Union Home Minister Amit Shah instead.

Nitish Kumar says worries that a caste census will upset some people are without basis.

"It is up to the Centre to do a caste census or not... our job is to put forth our views. Do not think that one caste will like and another will not... It is in everyone's interest," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"No tension will be created in the society. There will be happiness... People from every strata will benefit from schemes," he told reporters, adding that such a census "happened under British rule too".

It was the Chief Minister's ally BJP that had expressed concern. Bihar BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal had said it might have an adverse impact on social amity.

Mr Kumar said no BJP MLA had raised any objection when the Bihar assembly passed a resolution favouring a caste-based census and sent it to the Centre. "Then why objections are being raised from some quarters is beyond my understanding," he questioned.

After Independence, leaders like BR Ambedkar had argued that a caste census would be inimical to an equitable society. Every census since 1947 has only counted Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Last month, in response to a question in Lok Sabha, junior Home Minister Nityanand Rai had said: "The Government of India has decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise population other than SCs and STs in Census".

Barring the BJP, all parties in Bihar have called for a caste census. Other Bihar leaders like HAM (Hindustan Awam Morcha) chief and former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and Rashtriya Janata Dal's Tejashwi Yadav have also backed the demand.

Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale, another BJP ally, has also called for it.

Tejashwi Yadav, the Bihar Leader of Opposition, has asked the Nitish Kumar government to conduct such an exercise "on its own" if the Centre disagrees.

Mr Yadav said Mr Kumar should head a delegation of leaders from Bihar - including him - or speak to the Prime Minister and "reason out the issue".

"However, if the Chief Minister expresses inability to take this course of action, I want to suggest that the state government conduct a census of all castes like Karnataka did some time back," said the leader of the Opposition.

A "social and educational survey", seen as an equivalent of a caste-based census, was conducted in Karnataka in 2015 by the then Congress government in Karnataka. Now in the Opposition, the Congress has been demanding that the report be made public.