Caste census | Nitish agreed to State-specific exercise in Bihar, says Tejashwi Yadav

Mr. Yadav made the disclosure outside the Assembly in Patna after he met the Chief Minister, heading a delegation of Opposition parties to press the demand.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has agreed to conduct a State-specific exercise following the Centre’s refusal to hold census of castes other than SCs and STs, Leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav said on Thursday.

Mr. Yadav made the disclosure outside the Assembly in Patna after he met the Chief Minister, heading a delegation of Opposition parties to press the demand.

“We had sought an appointment with the CM yesterday. Today, a delegation comprising MLAs of the RJD, the Congress, the Left parties and the AIMIM met him,” he told reporters.

“Kumar had said before that he will conduct a State-specific exercise if the Centre does not agree to include other castes in the Census schedule. Now that the Centre has made clear its stand, we told the CM that it was time to walk the talk,” said the former Deputy Chief Minister.

The CM had spoken about convening an all-party meeting to decide the modalities. The matter hanged fire because of by-elections to a couple of seats, he said.

“We were expecting a statement on the matter during the ongoing session of Assembly which did not come. But, now he has said the meeting will be held in three to four days. We will keep the public posted,” said the RJD leader.

The demand for a caste census has been an emotive issue in Bihar where the OBCs have dominated politics since the Mandal churn of 1990s to which both Kumar and his arch rival Lalu Prasad, father of Tejashwi Yadav, owe their rise to prominence.

Mr. Yadav also sought to allay fears expressed by some leaders of the BJP, which derives its support primarily from the upper castes, that a caste census might further sharpen social divisions.

“On the contrary, it will facilitate targetted development of the weaker sections, leading to reduced disparity and greater social harmony,” said Mr. Yadav, who has taken over the RJD mantle from his ailing father.

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Replying to a question, he said, “We never doubted the Chief Minister’s commitment to a caste census. Both houses of the State Legislature have passed unanimous resolutions, twice, in support of the demand. We met him to request that the process be expedited”.

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