PATNA: The Bihar assembly was on Friday paralysed by vociferous protests by the opposition which accused the Nitish Kumar government of dragging its feet on a state-specific caste census.
The matter was raised shortly after commencement of proceedings at 11am through a starred question from leader of the opposition Tejashwi Yadav. As he was not present in the House, the Speaker moved to the next listed question and members of the RJD and Left parties rose in protest.
They demanded that a statement be made by the government on the questions raised by Yadav, which included details of the proposed timeline for a state-specific caste census and budgetary allocation for the same.
Ruckus by the opposition members, many of whom trooped into the well, forced adjournment till 11.30am and when the House re-assembled, MLAs of the RJD and the Left again raised slogans like "sau mein nabbe shoshit hain, nabbe bhag hamaara hai" (we stand for the oppressed who constitute 90 per cent of the population and deserve a commensurate share).
Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha again adjourned the House till 2pm.
While talking to reporters later, RJD MLA and chief spokesperson Bhai Virendra, accompanied by representatives of the Left parties, alleged that the government was trying to wash its hands off the caste census.
The bicameral legislature of the state has twice passed unanimous resolutions in support of a caste census. Last year, an all-party delegation led by chief minister Nitish Kumar and including Tejashwi Yadav had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press for the demand.
The state, which has been the hub of Mandal politics that saw the political ascendance of the OBCs, is on the boil over the refusal of the Centre to conduct headcount of different castes, barring the SCs and the STs.
The chief minister, himself a product of the Mandal churn and a strong votary of caste census, had indicated that following the reluctance of the Centre, he might consider holding a state-specific survey so that welfare programmes could be devised in a more targeted fashion.
However, the stumbling block may have come in the form of the recent indifference over the issue of the BJP, members of which had been a signatory to the two resolutions passed by the House but now finds themselves in a bind with the Narendra Modi government having adopted a divergent stance.
There is a view that a caste census will bring the Mandal politics to the centre stage of politics and can be an effective weapon in the hands of regional parties to counter the BJP's Hindutva and welfare planks, the twin issues used by the saffron party to make inroads into the OBC vote bank at the expense of state-based parties.