PATNA: Setting aside the BJP's objections, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday asserted that it would not take long before the process for a caste census in Bihar was put into motion.
Nitish's remarks came in the presence of deputy chief minister Tarkishore Prasad of the BJP who was taken aback as the demand had already been turned down by the top leadership of the saffron party at the Centre.
Talking to the media after paying floral tributes to Gautam Buddha, Nitish said that he had even apprised leader of opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav of the state government's plan to start work on the caste census shortly when the latter had called on him last week to press the long-pending demand.
In response to a query, the Chief Minister said that an all-party meeting would be convened soon and opinions of the leaders of various political parties sought on the matter. The all-party meet will be followed by cabinet approval on the proposal for holding a caste census, he added.
Nitish pointed out that the modalities like the number of officials needed for the caste census exercise would also be decided. A date for initiating the caste census process will be announced after all parties reached a consensus on the
issue, he disclosed.
Referring to the delay in starting the process, the Chief Minister said that the all-party meeting could not be held earlier due to busy schedule and involvement of people in elections, Covid19 pandemic management and other important engagements.
Meanwhile, former JDU Rajya Sabha member Ali Anwar said that Muslims should be treated separately in the caste census in the state. “BJP was against the caste census even when it was necessary for formulating concrete and effective policies for taking social justice to the next level,” he added.
The government was using caste data collected during the 1931 census. Anwar said that the Mandal commission had recommended the caste census, but it could not be done for reasons best known to the authorities concerned.
Earlier, senior BJP leader and state agriculture minister Amrendra Pratap Singh had apparently caused some embarrassment to Nitish by saying that there was no need to conduct a caste census in the state.
On the other hand, senior BJP leader and state spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel contended that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was giving thought to the issue of caste census in a comprehensive manner so that it could be conducted in the entire country.
Patel said that leaders of all political parties in Bihar should have faith in the Prime Minister. Earlier, Nitish had given an assurance to Tejashwi Prasad Yadav that an all-party meet would be convened at the earliest to hold discussions on the issue of caste count.
Both Nitish and Tejashwi had a one-on-one meeting for nearly 45 minutes, creating speculation on whether the RJD and Nitish's JDU are planning to spring another political surprise in the state.