New Delhi: Stepping up their campaign for a caste-based census, a delegation of 10 parties from Bihar headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi here Monday. After the meeting Nitish Kumar said that all parties from Bihar spoke in one voice on the need for a caste-based census. He asserted that statistics about different castes will help in formulating development schemes effectively as many of them have not benefitted so far in line with their actual population.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav was part of the delegation. He said such a census was in national interest. It will be a historic measure and help the poor and the most deprived sections of the society. If animals and trees can be counted, so can people, Tejashwi said.
Kumar was joined by representatives of all major parties, including the BJP and Congress, as they submitted their demand to Modi.
Kumar was asked about the prime minister’s response. He said Modi gave all of them a patient hearing and ‘did not deny what we said (need for caste census)’.
BJP’s Janak Ram was also a part of the delegation. He said Modi heard out everyone’s view like the ‘guardian of a family’. Everyone was ‘satisfied’ and the prime minister’s decision will be acceptable to all, he added.
With census being the Union’s prerogative, it is now up to the Centre to take a call on the demand made by many parties, mostly those who draw their core support from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Speaking to reporters, both Kumar and Tejashwi referred to the statement of a Union minister, a reference to Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai’s reply in Rajya Sabha that there was no proposal for releasing caste-based population data, with the chief minister saying it triggered ‘unrest’ among people.
A certain bonhomie between the two political rivals, who have been allies in the past, was also on display as Kumar credited the young RJD leader for making the proposal for an all-party delegation meeting the prime minister. Tejashwi on the other expressed thanks to the chief minister for working on it and seeking time from Modi.
Asked if Kumar’s JD(U), which is part of the BJP-led NDA, and the RJD are coming closer, Tejashwi said the opposition in Bihar has always supported the government over pro-people measures and those in national interest. “Once caste census is carried out, then we will get to know actual information about all castes. Development work for them can then be taken up effectively,” he said.