Bihar Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav will accompany Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in an all-party delegation that will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 23 to ask for a caste-based census.
This will be the first time that Nitish and Tejashwi will share a platform.
“I had sought time from the Hon’ble Prime Minister to meet with a delegation (from Bihar) on caste-based census. Many thanks to the Hon’ble Prime Minister for giving an appointment on August 23,” the Chief Minister posted on Twitter.
Tejashwi’s political advisor Sanjay Yadav confirmed that the RJD leader would join the CM at the meeting with Modi.
All parties in Bihar except the BJP have demanded a count of caste numbers in the 2021 census. While the central government has so far refused to accede to the demand, some BJP leaders including Bihar Deputy CM Renu Devi have backed the caste census.
“All socialist parties, Congress, and Left parties are on the same page on the caste census. Ironically, the BJP too had backed the unanimous resolution passed by the Bihar legislature asking for a caste census,” a JD(U) leader said.
Asked if the JD(U) was indicating to the BJP that it had the option of joining hands with the RJD, the leader said: “The media are reading too much into this. Nitish Kumar has reiterated that JD(U) is part of the NDA.”
A senior RJD leader said the demand for a caste census was “surely common meeting ground”. “But it is too early to look for a political meaning. Caste census has been a big issue. It is good that almost all opposition parties have been unanimous on it,” the leader said.
The JD(U) broke ranks with the BJP recently on the Pegasus affair as well, with Nitish demanding a probe into the allegations of surveillance of phones using sophisticated spyware. Nitish also does not agree with the population policy that has been proposed in BJP-ruled UP and Assam.
The BJP has been in a dilemma over the intensifying demand for a caste census. Union Minister Bhupender Yadav has told The Indian Express in an interview that the government is yet to take a decision on it.
Highly placed sources in the government said that the top leadership of the ruling party is of the view that “the government should not agree to such an enumeration soon”. However, the standing committee on social justice, which was earlier headed by senior BJP leader Ganesh Singh, has proposed a census of OBCs.
BJP leaders privately concede that the demand for a caste census would be an issue in the state elections of next year. They say the party cannot afford to antagonise the OBCs, who have become a crucial support base in recent years.
On July 20, in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Minister of state for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai had said: “The Government of India has decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise populations other than SCs and STs in the census.”