The centre’s affidavit in Supreme Court on the Bihar government’s decision to conduct a caste survey, and its correction hours later, has “exposed the BJP” and its “motive to block the survey”, the Opposition has alleged.
This comes after an affidavit filed yesterday said only the centre can conduct a “census or any action akin to the census”. Hours later, the centre submitted a fresh affidavit in which this remark was purged. The fresh affidavit said the paragraph had “inadvertently crept in”.
The back-to-back affidavits sparked a massive row, with Janata Dal United (JDU) and its ally Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) hitting out at the BJP.
Manoj Kumar Jha, Rajya Sabha MP from RJD, alleged that the Prime Minister’s Office is trying every trick in the book to block the caste survey. “This proves that it is paramount for BJP and Sangh Parivar to deprive such a huge part of the population of their rights,” Mr Jha said. Mentioning the back-to-back affidavits filed by the centre, the MP said, “This was not inadvertent. It was deliberate. I am warning the government. You will create a volcano if you try to block the rights of this section through back door and front door methods.”
“I assure you, you cannot stop this. This is just exposing you,” he said.
JDU leader and Bihar’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary told NDTV that the centre is saying that the right to hold a census rests with them. “This is hilarious. The Bihar government has been saying this from the beginning. What we are conducting is not a census, but a survey,” he said.
“This has unmasked the centre. This shows their desperation. Even BJP leaders are confused. The BJP had expressed support for the survey in the all-party meeting in Bihar. Now there is a question mark on that too. This is not a census. Who has challenged their right to hold a census,” he said.
State BJP president Samrat Choudhary stressed that the Bihar party unit backs the caste survey. Asked about the affidavit row, he said, “The Home Ministry would be able to explain that,” he said, stressing that the centre has not made any attempt to stop the survey.
“We have only one demand. If Nitish Kumar government has completed the survey, the report should be released in 24 hours,” he told NDTV.
Responding to questions on the row, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar reiterated that his government was not conducting a census but a survey. “We are not counting numbers of people from different castes, we are also surveying their economic condition so that we have proper data. We are working for the welfare of the people,” he said, adding that work on the survey was nearly over.
The Bihar government decided to hold a caste survey on June 2 last year, months after the centre ruled out such an exercise in the census.
The survey aims to cover a population of about 12.70 crores and was to be completed by May 31 this year. In May, the Patna High Court paused the survey. But earlier this month, the high court gave the Nitish Kumar government a go-ahead after its assurance on the protection of data collected during this survey.
The high court’s green signal has now been challenged in Supreme Court.
Results of the caste survey can be of immense political significance ahead of the 2024 general elections, especially against the backdrop of Opposition parties, including the JDU and RJD, joining ranks under the INDIA bloc to take on the BJP.