Bihar BJP set riders before nod to caste census: Guard against Rohingya, Bangladeshis, fake OBC identity

Party to the consensus decision in Bihar to hold a caste census, the BJP, which is part of the government in the state, has put forward some riders. Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal said at the all-party meeting on the issue that they want the government to ensure that “no Rohingya and illegal Bangladeshi migrants” are counted, and to guard against Muslims in areas where they are in large numbers falsely claiming OBC benefits.

The Bihar Cabinet on Thursday cleared the proposal for the caste census and allocated Rs 500 crore for it.

The state BJP has taken a position different from the central unit of the party on the matter. While the Narendra Modi-led Union government has ruled out a caste census, the Bihar BJP doesn’t want to give any leeway to other parties on the issue given the hold of caste in the state. It’s in the riders that it has tried to walk the middle ground.

“I clearly expressed concerns regarding the caste census,” Jaiswal told The Indian Express. “I told the CM during the all-party meeting that no Rohingya or illegal Bangladeshi migrant should be counted, as they could later use it as a basis to get Indian citizenship.”

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Jaiswal said he also warned against Muslims in Seemanchal (the area comprising Kishanganj, Araria, Purnia and Katihar) trying to pass off as OBC Shekhora and Kulharia subcastes at the expense of other genuine backward classes.

The other concern for the party, as per Jaiswal, is that the castes and sub-castes be counted “properly”. “As per Central government data, there are 3,747 castes. In its affidavit before the Supreme Court, the Centre said that during the 2011 (socio-economic census, which remains unpublished), there were 4.3 lakh castes and sub-castes as per the people covered. Hence, there must be caution in enumerating the castes,” Jaiswal said.

After the all-party meeting, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, while not directly responding to the BJP’s apprehensions, told reporters: “The entire process will be transparent and duly advertised and the details and progress would be shared with the media.” Nitish added that once Bihar finished the census, other states would also do so, and there could be a point when a national caste census might not be required. “Suppose all states have their caste census, we will have nationwide data anyway,” the CM said.

A Bihar BJP leader denied there was any reluctance within the party over the caste census, as is being projected by the JD(U) and RJD. “The Bihar BJP supports caste census as we have always supported it, and we were part of the unanimous resolution in the state Legislature in 2019 and 2020 as well. We were also part of the all-party delegation that the Bihar CM led to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.”

Asked why the Centre had taken a different stand, the leader said: “The reason is very simple: we do not want to lose momentum on our agenda of cultural nationalism. Plus, we do not want to revive the reservation issue by giving an unnecessary political plank to the Opposition, which is otherwise bereft of any major issue now.”

Plus, the leader said, the Modi government was already ensuring that all social groups were recipient of its Labharthi schemes. “We have reached out to 20 of 26 crore beneficiaries.”

Another BJP leader said they had deflated the reservation plank of socialist parties like the JD(U), RJD and Samajwadi Party by giving 10 per cent EWS quota. “Other issues such as Article 370 and Ayodhya on which socialist parties differed with us have been resolved through the Constitution and court respectively. Caste census is the only plank left with them and we do not want to go by the terms set by them,” the leader said.

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