The demand for caste census, particularly enumeration of OBCs, is emerging as a political hot potato for the BJP, especially when Uttar Pradesh and a few other states are heading for polls next year. Amid mounting pressure from the Opposition and some allies, including the JDU in Bihar, the BJP, which was vehemently opposed to the caste census till recently, is preparing strategies to counter them.
National president of BJP OBC Morcha, Dr K Laxman, speaks to our Patna correspondent Rajesh Kumar Thakur.
The BJP-led central government has expressed its inability to go ahead with the caste census. How would you justify this move?
The enumeration of OBCs is not a child's play. There are a lot of complexities in conducting a caste census as part of the national census in a country like India, which has diverse castes and demography. The Congress and other parties like RJD were part of the UPA-I and UPA-II.
They are aware of the complexities and intricacies of conducting a caste census. The parties, which are creating a muddle on the issue out of political reasons without understanding this, should feel free to put the demand with their respective state governments.
There would be no objection from our side. The Centre's refusal to conduct the caste census along with the national census-2021 is totally justified and based on technical and practical reasons.
How do you see the demand from three BJP’s allies in Bihar, including JDU?
I hope our allies in the NDA would also try to understand all these technical problems sincerely and not become adamant on the issue.
So, you see the intentions of the opposition parties demanding the caste census as doubtful?
The party (read the Congress) which doled out Rs 5,000 crore and produced discrepancies in the data in the 2011 exercise on the same issue must answer this very serious question. The same party and some regional parties are at the forefront with an obnoxious agenda to divide the people.
However, the OBCs are wiser to see through the divisive agenda of the parties. No attempt will mislead the OBCs in the country when Prime Minister Narendra Modi acts as the real champion of OBCs - right from works to words.
Wouldn't the denial of your government to conduct the census damage BJP’s prospects in the UP polls?
Not at all. I toured across the state and interacted with thousands of OBC voters and leaders. None of them is annoyed with the performance of our government; rather they sounded satisfied over the welfare works.
Modi government has taken historical decisions for the uplift and empowerment of OBCs in a span of last seven years, like providing constitutional status to NCBC, increasing annual income limit from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh for creamy layer, inducting 27 OBC ministers in the cabinet (first time in the history), 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in medical and other courses.
The most important thing the Modi government had done for OBCs is the power given to the states to identify the castes for OBCs by amending the relevant Act in the Parliament. Apart from all this, Modi as MP from Varanasi is the first OBC prime minister in the country, which itself exhibits the genuine concern of BJP towards the OBCs.
As the opposition parties try to make the caste census a national issue, how would the BJP handle this?
In fact, the BJP agenda in the forthcoming UP assembly elections is 'development and welfare of the poor people', whether it they are OBC, SC, ST, minorities, women, youth or farmers. Our party does politics for development. Our main poll plank is 'Saab-Ke-Sath, Sab-Ke-Vikas', while the Opposition’s agenda is 'Kuch Ke sath, Khud ke liye Vikas'.