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The Hindu
The Hindu
Mayank Kumar

BJP’s allies in U.P. join the Opposition in demanding caste census

The results of the Bihar caste survey have put pressure on the Yogi Adityanath-led government in Uttar Pradesh, where not only the Opposition parties, but also the allies of the ruling BJP are unanimous in pushing for a caste count in the State. So far, however, the government has remained firm that it is not the job of the State to conduct any such census, and that it had no plans to do so.

All three allies of the BJP rely on OBC communities for support: the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) is dominated by the Rajbhars, an OBC caste, and is led by Om Prakash Rajbhar; the Nishad Party champions a traditional boatmen community, and is led by State Minister Sanjay Nishad; and the Apna Dal (Sonelal), which gets supports from the Kurmis, among the most numerically dominant OBC groups in U.P. after the Yadavs.

‘Non-negotiable demand’

“Our party is a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), but we demand a Caste Census in U.P., the issue is non-negotiable for us. We will push for it at proper forums,” the SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar told The Hindu.

Union Minister Anupriya Patel, who belongs to the Apne Dal (Sonelal), also demanded a caste census on Tuesday, seeking to know the exact statistics of the OBC population, so that their problems could be addressed effectively. “Caste census is the need of the hour to gather authentic data and solve the issues of backward castes,” said Ms. Patel, who is in Rae Bareli, adding that a separate ministry for the OBCs should also be formed. The contrary position of its allies may force the BJP to rethink and plan an aggressive counter strategy in the State.

‘Listen to public sentiment’

More predictably, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati on Tuesday described the Bihar ‘caste census’ as the first step towards ensuring the constitutional rights of the other backward classes (OBCs).

“Some parties are definitely uncomfortable with this, but for BSP, this is the first step in the long struggle for the constitutional rights of OBCs. The U.P. government should now change its intentions and policies as per the public sentiments and expectations and start the caste census/survey immediately, but the right solution will be found only when the Union government conducts the caste census at the national level and ensures the due rights of OBCs,” Ms. Mayawati wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “BSP is happy that the country’s politics is taking a new turn in favour of the neglected ‘Bahujan Samaj’,” she added.

The Samajwadi Party (SP), which is the main Opposition party in the State, and the Congress also demanded that a caste census be conducted in U.P. “We have been categorical over the issue, from the beginning. In 2022 Assembly polls, our campaign focused over the issue of caste census. We believe, without knowing the population, economic condition of each caste group, how government policies could be implemented,” said Sunil Singh Yadav ‘Sajan’, the SP’s national spokesperson.

‘No plans for caste census’

In the Monsoon Session of the U.P. Assembly, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that the State government has no plans to conduct a “caste census” in Uttar Pradesh, adding that the Census Rules, 1990 and the Census Act, 1948 clearly say that the work of the census is to be done by the Union government.

The BJP is banking upon its outreach among the OBCs through political representation and economic policies to counter the Opposition’s challenge, apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s face. “In our regime, every community is getting the benefit of government policies. Our mantra of Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas and our actions, says it all, under Modiji’s leadership,” said the party’s State OBC Morcha president and Backward Welfare Minister Narendra Kashyap.

‘Banking on the PM’

The OBC wing of the BJP in U.P. has planned to hold an OBC Mahakhumbh or mass gathering in November at Prayagraj. The event will see the participation of top Central and State BJP leaders, who are continuously highlighting the political representation and policies initiated by the Union and State government for OBC communities.

Political experts also believe that the BJP will bank on the numerical representation given to OBCs in their dispensation, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s face, in order to bail them out from the challenge of a caste census demand.

“Amit Shah, in his two recent rallies in U.P., and other leaders also highlighted the high political representation given to OBCs under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Opposition’s challenges over caste census and OBC representation seems hollow as the SP, the principal Opposition party, lacks faces to build a narrative like they did in the 1990s, when they had tall non-Yadav OBC leaders like Beni Prasad Verma,” said Shashi Kant Pandey, a political scientist teaching at Central University, Lucknow.

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