The Bihar government on Monday released data from a controversial caste survey showing that nearly 63.1 percent of the state’s 13.1 crore population belongs to backward classes and nearly 85 percent belong to backward or extremely backward class, or to a scheduled caste. Tribe.
Specifically, 36 percent of the state is from an extremely backward class, 27.1 percent from a backward class, 19.7 percent from a Scheduled Caste and 1.7 percent from a Scheduled Tribe. The general category, including the so-called upper castes, accounts for 15.5 percent.
The report also highlights the minority status of those who identify as Muslim in Bihar; they constitute less than 18 percent of the population, while those who identify as Hindus account for 82 percent. At the 2011 census these figures were 16.9 percent and 82.7 percent respectively.
An in-depth study shows that the Yadav community – the group to which Deputy Prime Minister Tejashwi Yadav belongs – is the largest subgroup, accounting for 14.27 percent of all OBC categories.
A further in-depth analysis shows that Kushwahas and Kurmis constitute 4.27 and 2.87 percent of the population.
Brahmins constitute only 3.66 percent of Bihar’s population.
READ | Bihar Caste Survey: 27% Backward Classes, 36% Extremely Backward Classes
The data – which comes months ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha poll – underlines the electoral importance of OBCs and marginalized communities – both for the BJP, which has resisted calls for a national caste census, and for the Opposition, which has is becoming increasingly vocal about the subject.
In the last five Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has won OBC votes at the expense of the Congress.
In the 1999 national elections, the OBC vote distribution was equal: 23 to 24 percent. This rose from 34 to 15 percent in 2014 and to a whopping 44 percent for the BJP five years later.
READ | Bihar Caste Survey Results Completed, Nitish Kumar Shares Future Plan
In Bihar, that 63 percent OBC+EBC is an important figure for the BJP. In 2019, the BJP-led NDA won 39 of the state’s 40 seats; the BJP won 17, JDU (then its ally) 16 and the Lok Janshakti Party got six.
The BJP and its allies thus benefited from the OBC votes, as they did in the 2020 Bihar elections, when 81 percent of Kurmis, 51 percent of Koeris and 58 percent of other OBCs/EBCs voted for them.
However, representation has not always equaled population density – a point Congressman Rahul Gandhi made when he said that only three of the Indian government’s 90 secretaries were from the OBCs.
READ |“Important to know India’s caste statistics”: Rahul Gandhi on census
Comparing the 2015 Bihar Assembly with that of 2020, it is seen that the number of MLAs from OBC and EBC communities has fallen from 48.6 per cent to 40.7 per cent. The MLAs from the so-called upper castes rose from 23.9 percent to 29.2 percent, while those from the Muslim community fell from 9.9 to 7.8 percent.
The party-wise distribution of these figures shows that the BJP has only 27 MLAs from OBC communities (compared to 34 from the so-called upper castes). For the JDU, this split was 22-10.
The RJD skew was even higher in terms of OBC representation: 39-13.
Meanwhile, what the Bihar caste survey report also does is highlight the significance of OBC + EBC communities for the BJP, Congress and all political parties across the country, with a special focus on the states voting this year – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Telangana.
In Telangana, OBCs (as a percentage of rural households) account for over 57 percent. In Chhattisgarh, that number stands at 51.4 percent. This is 46.8 in Rajasthan and 42.4 in Madhya Pradesh.
The caste inquiry in Bihar is a polarizing issue among India’s political parties, with battle lines drawn between (mainly) the ruling BJP on the one hand and a number of opposition parties on the other.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today at an election event in Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior lashed out at those who are “trying to divide the country in the name of caste” – seen as a sharp response to Bihar’s caste probe.
READ |“Trying to divide the country…”: PM after Bihar releases caste survey report
The INDIA bloc, which has been pushing for a national caste census to ensure better targeting of development initiatives, has been boosted by the Bihar report. Rahul Gandhi – whose Congress is part of INDIA – said his party will order a similar exercise if it wins the Madhya Pradesh elections this year.