New Delhi: The JD(U), which is the second-largest party in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), is not only batting for a caste-based census but also wants the Modi government to use the data and ensure “proportionate reservation”.
In an exclusive interview with ThePrint JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh, better known as Lalan Singh, said that since the country’s population has increased, reservation norms too need to be reviewed.
“If a caste-based census is held now, numbers of all communities will increase. It is not that only the number of backward classes will increase; some forward caste numbers will also see an increase,” he said.
“This is because the last caste-based census was conducted way back in the 1930s; all communities are getting reservations on the basis of this census. Today, the population of this country has breached the 130-crore mark, and so reservation should also be given in the same proportion.”
Singh is a close aide of JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He was only recently elected as the national president of the JD(U).
“I do not fathom why the BJP is panicking so much on the question of conducting a caste-based census,” Singh said. “It has no firm basis to do so because when a proposal to carry out a caste-based census was unanimously passed in the Bihar assembly, it was supported by the BJP too.”
Despite being an ally of the BJP, the JD(U) has been a vocal proponent of a caste census. Only last month, the party had passed a resolution in support of the proposal during its national working committee meeting.
This Monday, Nitish Kumar had said he has sought time from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the demand. He is yet to receive a response.
During Tuesday’s Parliamentary debate on the 127th Constitutional Amendment Bill, also referred to as the OBC Bill, JD(U) MPs once again reiterated their demand for a caste-based census.
‘Will help in the implementation of welfare schemes’
Lalan Singh told ThePrint that one of the benefits of having caste data is that it would lead to the efficient execution of welfare schemes.
“Better implementation of welfare schemes will be possible only when you know exactly how many people belong to which caste or community. How many of them are backward, how many are from forward castes,” he said.
“This fear-mongering is due to a misconception that only the numbers of backward castes will witness an increase through this exercise. When the overall population has increased so much, then the number of forward castes would also have increased.”
Singh said that the census could even benefit upper castes.
“On several occasions, many people say that upper castes constitute only 4 or 5 per cent of the entire population. Through a caste-based census it will become clear as to how much of the population they are,” he said. “The upper castes will also benefit. It is in the interests of everyone. This is not a political issue; instead, it is in the interest of upliftment of every section of the society.”
On why the BJP is hesitant on the issue, the JD(U) national president said, “You should ask this question to the central government. However, when the Bihar assembly had unanimously passed resolutions, in 2019 and in 2020, to carry out a caste-based census, the BJP was a party to the decision. They had extended support to it.”
‘Not a new demand’
Singh also made it clear that his party’s demand is not a recent one.
“This demand of ours is not a new one and it has nothing to do with politics. Since the 1990s, CM Nitish Kumar has been constantly demanding a caste-based census,” he said.
“We also passed resolutions on this on two separate occasions and forwarded it to the central government. The actual welfare of the entire society will only be possible when every section gets due representation.”
The JD(U) further said that the OBC bill will do little to help the backward castes in the country.
“With the passage of the OBC Bill, states will get additional powers to add names of more castes in the OBC list. But it will have no real benefits for the OBC castes because the share of reservation will be increased or decreased within the same pool,” he said.
“The real solution will be possible only when the government opts to conduct a caste-based census. Only then those communities that have a larger share of the population will get a bigger share in the representation pie. Only then the actual benefits of various central schemes will reach the really deprived sections.”
Responding to a question on why the JD(U) was aligning with the RJD, and if he endorsed Lalu Prasad Yadav’s threat that if caste is not included in the 2021 census then the OBCs would boycott it, Lalan Singh said, “We are part of the NDA; we don’t have anything to do with what Laluji has to say. On the issue of social representation, he (Lalu) has also supported the cause of a caste-based census and it is a good thing.
“All parties should support it because it is in everyone’s interest. We will keep raising this demand with the central government and our chief minister will personally meet the prime minister to discuss the issue.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)