Bihar: Nitish Kumar snubs BJP, accepts RJD's demand to convene all-party meeting on caste census

Nitish sends out invitations to various parties for a meeting on May 27, which is likely to be boycotted by the BJP

Law Kumar MishraUpdated: Monday, May 23, 2022, 11:27 PM IST
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Nitish Kumar | PTI Photo

PATNA: In an apparent snub to the BJP-led Centre, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has warmed up to the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) demand to convene an all-party meeting for a caste census on May 27. On Monday, Nitish said that invitations have been sent to different parties for the meet, which is likely to be boycotted by the BJP, to whom the announcement

has come as a rude jolt. The party has been resisting any such census, the last of which was conducted in 1931.

A meeting of the core group of BJP state leaders was taking place in Patna at the party office at the time of filing this report. In the 243-member assembly of Bihar, the BJP has 77 MLAs, the RJD 76 while Nitish’s Janata Dal (United) has 45 members.

The relation between the BJP-JDU, alliance partners for decades now, except a brief breakup in 2015, has been under strain for many months now on multiple issues, including the BJP’s resistance to caste census, something if done, will add massively to the electoral capital of Nitish and the RJD, but is likely to damage the BJP, whose core support base in Bihar is the ‘forward’ castes.

In August 2021, Nitish had led a delegation of 11 parties that met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to push for a caste census. A month earlier, he had met Home Minister Amit Shah for the same reason. However, over nine months later, Nitish is yet to receive an answer from the BJP leadership on this matter.

Days after he led an all-party meet last year, the Central government told the Supreme Court that caste census was “administratively difficult and cumbersome”. “It has suffered, and will suffer, both on account of completeness and accuracy of data,” the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment stated in its affidavit.

While responding to the stand taken by the Centre, KC Tyagi, JD(U)’s secretary general had stated they were “sad and angry”.

Of late, the relations between the RJD and JDU have been seeing some better days. On May 19, the leader of opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav demanded a meeting with Nitish while giving a deadline of four weeks, while threatening to start a statewide padyatra for caste-based census. Nitish, however, invited him the very next day and announced his decision to convene the all-party meeting.

Former chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha president, Jeetan Ram Manjhi, an alliance partner with JDU, confirmed having received an invitation for the meeting.

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