UP govt walks a tight rope over caste census amid Opposition pressure
During the ongoing budget session of the UP Assembly, SP chief, and Leader of the opposition, Akhilesh Yadav reiterated the demand for a caste census on the assembly floor on February 23.
Published: 03rd March 2023 05:13 PM | Last Updated: 03rd March 2023 05:25 PM | A+A A-
LUCKNOW: Amid the vociferous demand by the opposition led by Samajwadi Party (SP) to hold a caste census in Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government seems to be walking on a tightrope over the issue calling it a Centre’s prerogative.
Not only the main opposition SP but also the smaller outfits like OP Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, Keshav Dev Maurya-led Mahan Dal and Babu Singh Kushwaha-led Janadhikar Party along with BJP allies including Sanjay Nishad’s Nishad Party and Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal (S) have been demanding it. However, BSP and RLD have yet to clear their stand on the issue.
On the contrary, the BJP has been observing a discreet silence over the issue considering its larger ramifications, especially, in a volatile state like UP where caste plays a crucial role in winning elections.
Moreover, ‘Hindutva’ being the core of BJP’s politics wherein it stresses on the unity of Hindus instead of caste division, any such exercise would hamper its goal of mobilizing the Hindus as one unit with the big battle of 2024 just a year away.
It is for the same reason that the ruling party is apparently in a dilemma over the caste census which is already in progress in neighbouring Bihar.
UP has over 75 other backward castes (OBC) and 66 scheduled castes (SC) and other sub-castes. Only a chosen few like Yadav, Kurmi, Lodh, Rajbhar, Maurya, and Kushwaha among OBCs, and Jatav, Pasi, and Valmiki among SCs are enjoying the lion’s share of political power, economic resources, and government jobs.
During the ongoing budget session of the UP Assembly, SP chief, and Leader of the opposition, Akhilesh Yadav reiterated the demand for a caste census on the assembly floor on February 23. He put the ruling party in a tight spot by asking the treasury benches to come clear on their stand over the issue.
“If Bihar can have a caste census, why can’t we? Our party had promised that if voted to power, we will complete the caste census within three months,” said Akhilesh.
Responding to him, UP Agriculture minister and BJP MLA from Pathardeva in Deoria, called it the prerogative of the Union government as it was the subject listed at number 69 of the Union List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India.
“The Union Government has enacted the Census Act, 1948, and Census Rules, 1990. The subject of holding a census is within the purview of the Centre, not the state,” said the minister but the opposition remained firm on its demand.
While the BJP allies including NISAHD party and Apna Dal (Sonelal) along with SBSP questioned the SP government's ‘inaction’ over the issue during its rule if Akhilesh was concerned about the distribution of resources among castes as per their representation.
Besides the opposition, one of the most prominent OBC faces of the ruling party in UP, Deputy CM Keshav Maurya ruffled many feathers by backing the caste census demand early last month. It is a move, according to political experts, as a ploy to scuttle the opposition’s plan to corner the ruling party on the issue.
However, a fortnight later, Keshav Maurya junked the opposition demand calling it a mere 'dhong' (pretence) ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
"They played ‘Mauni baba’ when in power, now raising the demand to gain political mileage which would not come true," said the UP Deputy CM.
He had even challenged SP chief Akhilesh Yadav to appoint a person from some other caste as his party chief to manifest his intent towards caste justice.
If the BJP insiders are to be believed, given his caste credentials, Maurya was asked by the party brass to rebuke the opposition over the issue as the SP had planned a 10-day campaign over the issue from February 24 at the grass root level.
"The ruling party is walking a tight rope on caste census issue as it has strived to take the backward communities and Dalits along with the upper castes scrupulously under the umbrella of Hindutva in the recent years," says political scientist Prof AK Mishra of Lucknow University.
In its first term, the Yogi government had undertaken a ‘samajik nyay (social justice)’ survey though the survey committee report, which outlined more representation for lesser-represented Dalit and OBC groups, has yet to be implemented.