PATNA: The Centre's decision to withhold caste-based census data has created a political row in poll-bound Bihar with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD supremo Lalu Yadav demanding its immediate publication.
Even Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Secular, leader and former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who recently joined the NDA, has also called for release of socio-economic caste census data.
Last week Union ministers - Arun Jaitley and Rao Birender Singh - had released socio-economic caste census, but refrained from making public the number of different castes, minorities and weaker sections.
Apparently sniffing conspiracy by the Centre in withholding data about population of different castes and minorities, the RJD supremo has threatened to take out a march to the Raj Bhawan in the state capital on July 13 next.
"Everybody has a right to know population of his or her caste. People should also know the number of population of a particular caste. We keep hearing many claims about caste-related numbers by many persons. The census figures will show the real numbers," Prasad had told reporters on the sidelines of the RJD's 19th foundation day celebrations at the party office two days ago.
Echoing identical views, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too had said that the data of individual castes was carried out under the composite socio-economic caste census on the demand of the people and that should be made public.
"It's beyond my comprehension as to why the Centre is not releasing caste-based census," he had said yesterday. Kumar had said that the last caste-based census was carried out in 1931 and since then concerted demands had been made from various quarters for carrying out census of individual castes and once it had been done it must be made public so that schemes could be made for socio-economic progress of the weaker sections.
Questioning the Central government's intention to withhold details of caste-based census, the senior JD(U) leader alleged that the BJP-led NDA had no commitment for uplift of the weaker sections.
Launching a frontal attack on the BJP for dubbing rival leaders as casteist ones, the chief minister asked "who could be more casteist than the saffron party?"
He said BJP had projected a leader as its prime ministerial candidate by describing him as member of a backward caste. A number of other BJP leaders too did not miss an opportunity to project their caste identity by declaring themselves as leaders of backward or extremely backward castes, he said.
In contrast, JD(U) did not profess caste politics and to buttress its ideology a party leader was made chief minister last year without taking into account his caste background and followed the same yardstick while removing him earlier this year, Kumar said referring to Manjhi's elevation as the Chief Minister and his removal nine months later.
However, BJP had made the issue (Manjhi's removal) a political one by dubbing it an attempt to marginalise the dalits in Bihar, the chief minister said. Stating that non-disclosure of caste-based census details as "injustice" to the people, he urged the Centre to release data about number of different castes and moot policies and programmes for alleviation of all weaker sections of the society instead of merely giving lip service to the deprived people.