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JD(U) chief Lalan Singh interview: ‘It’s not about upper hand or lower hand in alliance… We are talking about Bihar, and BJP in Bihar was part of House resolution on caste census’

As CM Nitish Kumar is all set to hold an all-party meeting on the caste census before his Cabinet considers it for approval, his party chief Lalan Singh speaks on the issue and whether it is a bid to gain an upper hand over the party's senior ally, the BJP.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
Updated: May 24, 2022 4:19:37 pm
Janata Dal (United)'s national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh. (Express file)

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar seems to be pressing ahead with the proposal to conduct a caste census in the state even though the BJP-ruled Centre continues to remain non-committal over it. As Nitish is all set to hold an all-party meeting on the caste census before his Cabinet considers it for approval, his party Janata Dal (United)’s national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, the 67-year-old 3-term Lok Sabha MP, speaks to Santosh Singh on the issue and whether it is a bid to gain an upper hand over the party’s senior ally, the BJP. Excerpts:

So what is urgency of conducting a caste census in Bihar, given that the 127th amendment to the Constitution only gives the power of making the OBC list to states?

Let us talk about it in the present context. There has been so many claims about various caste groups’ rising numbers since there has been no caste census in the country since 1931. If we take several social groups’ claims, India’s population could well be some 400 crore. So, it is important to get the population numbers of different groups right so that the government’s plans and policies are framed accordingly.

But what would you say about the timing of Nitish Kumar’s caste census move, given the CBI ‘s raids at RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s residence last week?

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Too much should not be read into its timing. We have been talking about the need for a caste census for a long time. CM Nitish Kumar had led an all-Bihar parties delegation to take up the matter with the Centre. Much earlier, when there was no NDA, Nitish Kumar, as a minister in the then VP Singh Cabinet, had held discussion about the need for a caste census. The then PM had seen merit in it. Later, then President of India Giani Zail Singh had also supported the idea.

There is a perception that the JD(U) has chosen the timing for it to get an upper hand over ally BJP in Bihar. What is your take?

It is not a question of getting upper hand or lower hand in our alliance. We – JD (U) and BJP – have been working together for over 17 years now. Caste census is a long-pending demand.

But the central BJP does not seem to be supporting the idea of caste census and remains ambivalent on the issue.

We are talking about Bihar and the BJP in Bihar. The Bihar BJP was not only part of a unanimous resolution on the issue passed by the state legislature but was also part of the all-party delegation that Nitish Kumar led to Delhi. The Bihar BJP has supported the idea very much. Now that the Bihar CM has talked about holding an all-party meeting and subsequent Cabinet nod, we hope Bihar gets going with its own caste census.

While the JD (U) is on the same page with the principal Opposition RJD on the issue, a camaraderie has also been recently seen between Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Prasad Yadav. Your comments?

When all the (ten) Bihar parties are unanimous over the caste census, the talk of being on the same page with the RJD has no meaning. As I said before, Nitish Kumar had first mooted the idea and all supported it. Caste census would pave the way for social justice. We need to know the numbers of all sections of the society.

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But, isn’t it true that socialist parties like the JD(U) and the RJD had been left with little political options other than pressing for a caste census now?

We do not take it that way. We have been talking about it for long. And now we need the result.

Is JD(U) in favour of a socio-economic caste census?

JD(U) is in favour of a caste census.

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