The Centre’s refusal to release OBC and upper caste data collated through the first socioeconomic caste census in eight decades will be the main election plank for the Janata alliance in Bihar.

Speaking to BusinessLine here, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the Centre is suppressing data because it upsets the BJP’s political calculations. “I am making this accusation with all sense of responsibility — the OBC data is being suppressed for political reasons,” he said.

Nitish had flown to Delhi on Monday evening to attend an Iftar party hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He stayed back to participate in the NITI Aayog meeting on Wednesday, in which the government is set to appeal for support for the Land Acquisition Bill. While most Congress Chief Ministers are expected to boycott this meeting, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing the Bill and expressing her inability to attend the NITI Aayog meeting.

The Bihar CM will attend the meeting with the intent of formally putting across his party’s opposition to the Bill.

But the Land Bill is not an election plank in the same way as the caste census can be. The JD(U) believes the BJP is fanning low-scale communal violence in Bihar to polarise the electorate during the Assembly polls.

JD(U) president Sharad Yadav had told BusinessLine last week that the only political answer to the BJP’s Hindu communal consolidation project is to educate people about caste stratification in the Hindu society.

This was the reason for ‘Mandal politics’, which proved so effective against the ‘politics of kamandal’ in the 1990s, he said.

Protest march

Hence, the Janata alliance will try its best to push the BJP on releasing the census figures in the run-up to the elections in October this year.

RJD leader Lalu Prasad had held a march yesterday to demand the release of census figures. The RJD is an alliance partner of the JD(U).

“Laluji held a march yesterday. I too have been raising this issue at every platform. The BJP’s defence is that there is an error in the census figures. My point is — how do they know something that has not been made public?

“Obviously, it has been discussed within the ruling party as a major political issue and a decision has been taken to hide the data because it doesn’t suit the BJP,” said Nitish.

To a question about whether he believes it will lead to a Mandal-like consolidation of the OBCs in Bihar, he said: “I don’t know how people will react. But as a political issue, we will definitely raise it.”

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