3rd October 2023,Mumbai: The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar recently unveiled the findings of a caste-based census, leading to significant political repercussions. This revelation has forced political parties to reevaluate their strategies, especially in light of the upcoming general elections.
Prime Minister Modi’s Critique of Rahul Gandhi
In response to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s statement that “greater the population, greater the rights,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 2006 remark about minorities having the “first claim” on the country’s resources. Modi questioned whether the Congress now intended to diminish the rights of minorities and increase those of the majority population.
Bihar’s Caste Census Findings
The Bihar caste census results have highlighted a dramatic demographic distribution. Only 15.52 percent of Bihar’s population belongs to the general category, with 36.01 percent classified as extremely backward class, 27 percent as other backward class, 19.65 percent as Scheduled Castes, and 1.68 percent as Scheduled Tribes.
Religious Demographics in Bihar
The data also reveals the religious composition of Bihar, with 81.99 percent of the population being Hindu and 17.7 percent Muslim.
Demand for Nationwide Caste Census
Members of the opposition, specifically the INDIA alliance, have called for the replication of Bihar’s caste census model nationwide. Rahul Gandhi, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Modi, has passionately advocated for a nationwide caste census, emphasizing the underrepresentation of the Other Backward Class (OBC) in high-ranking government positions.
PM Modi’s Accusations of Caste-Based Division
Prime Minister Modi, during a recent rally, accused the Congress party of attempting to divide the country along caste lines. He countered Rahul Gandhi’s assertion by emphasizing that the most significant social group in India comprises those afflicted by poverty.
Inclusive Welfare for the Marginalized
PM Modi asserted that the welfare of the poor is his primary objective. He argued that the Congress party’s slogan, “jitni aabadi, utna haq” (greater the population, greater the rights), overlooks the fact that the largest population segment in India consists of the economically disadvantaged.
Manmohan Singh’s Vision for Equitable Growth
In 2006, when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, he advocated for innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly Muslims, had equitable access to the benefits of economic development. He emphasized that they should have the “first claim” on the country’s resources to achieve this goal.
The caste-based census findings in Bihar have opened up a significant debate on the allocation of resources and rights based on population demographics. While Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party push for a nationwide caste census, Prime Minister Modi counters with a focus on addressing poverty and ensuring the welfare of the economically disadvantaged, reframing the narrative around inclusive development. This development underscores the complexity of India’s diverse social fabric and the challenges in balancing equitable growth and representation. As the political discourse unfolds, it will be crucial to strike a balance between acknowledging historical disparities and fostering a more inclusive and prosperous future for all citizens.
-by Kashvi Gala