Ahead of polls in six states including OBC-dominated Uttar Pradesh next year, RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Wednesday raised the pitch for caste census and asked for breaching the 50 per cent ceiling on reservations if the population of SCs, STs and OBCs was found to be more than half of the total.
Addressing a training camp of his party workers online, Prasad on Wednesday said he was the “first one to raise the demand for caste census” and had made the demand on the floor of the Parliament.
He said his demand is for the welfare of all, SCs and STs included.
“Quotas have been decided taking into account a census conducted before Independence. We must have a fresh estimate of the population of different social segments. The existing quotas have been insufficient. And even these are rarely filled, resulting in huge backlogs. Let there be a fresh caste census and all get quotas in proportion to their population. If it needs breaking of the 50 per cent barrier, so be it,” Prasad said.
The issue of caste census could resonate in Bihar, a state of social justice movement and caste politics.
A joint delegation of Bihar led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi a while ago, seeking a caste census. Prasad’s son Tejshwi Yadav was also part of the delegation.
At least three NDA allies — JDU, RPI(A) led by Ramdas Athavale and Apna Dal led by Anupriya Patel have also joined the caste census bandwagon.
The issue of caste census has created a huge buzz in the run-up to the polls. While the two national parties, BJP and Congress have been wary of taking a categorical stand on the issue, the regional parties like SP, BSP, RJD, INLD, BJD, NCP and some others have raised the pitch in favour.
On September 3, Congress set up a special group headed by senior party leader M Veerappa Moily to "study the matters related to caste census" with immediate effect.
Leader of Opposition in Karnataka Assembly Siddaramaiah, an architect of AHINDA (loosely defining minority communities, backward classes and Dalits) politics, had already made a strong pitch for a nationwide caste-based census and demanded that it should be undertaken once every 10 years to ensure social justice.
Senior party leaders Salman Khurshid, Mohan Prakash, RPN Singh and P L Puniya (from Uttar Pradesh) and Kuldeep Bishnoi and party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi are members of the committee. In UP, where polls are expected in March next year, both Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have already backed caste census.
BJP is keen to not be seen opposing the OBC sentiment even as the government has said no to such a move while the Opposition parties from the socialist background in Hindi states like Bihar and UP are up to exploit this dilemma of the ruling party.