The Congress in Bihar on Sunday asserted that it was “fully” with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on the issue of caste census and urged him to move forward and hold a state-specific exercise without waiting for a nod from his ally BJP which is keeping cards close to the chest.
Congress Legislature Party leader Ajeet Sharma’s statement to the effect came close on the heels of Lalu Prasad’s RJD, the principal opposition party in the state, adopting a similar stance.
“The Chief Minister wants to convene an all-party meeting….. apparently the BJP does not want to be seen on the same page…..Let Nitish Kumar go ahead, the Congress is fully with him on the issue”, Sharma told reporters here.
The state BJP has in the past backed a caste census with its MLAs voting in favour of resolutions passed twice, unanimously, by the legislature.
The party finds itself in a bind after the Narendra Modi government turned down demands for conducting headcount of social groups other than SCs and STs.
A meeting between the Prime Minister and an all-party delegation from Bihar headed by the Chief Minister failed to achieve a breakthrough.
Politics in the state has for decades been dominated by the numerically powerful OBCs, who are hopeful of gains in the event of an exercise that might confirm that their percentage in population is far greater than 27 percent which has been earmarked as their quota following the Mandal Commission’s implementation.
In the wake of the Centre’s lukewarm response, Kumar who like Lalu Prasad is an OBC has decided to undertake a state-specific survey.
Recently, he disclosed that he proposed an all-party meeting on the issue which was hanging fire for want of the BJP’s assent.
Kumar controls the JD(U) but, on account of the party’s diminished numerical strength, has become heavily dependent on the BJP which is second only to the RJD in terms of the number of MLAs.
The 19-MLA-strong Congress is hardly a force to reckon with though it has been trying hard to make itself count ever since it was dumped by the RJD in assembly by-polls last year.