A multi-party delegation from Bihar led by CM Nitish Kumar is meeting PM Narendra Modi to press the demand for enumerating caste in the Census. Interestingly, Nitish said that opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav and netas from BJP are also part of the delegation, a sign that OBC leaders are closing ranks on the issue.
In recent weeks BJP has wooed the OBC grouping with greater representation for OBC netas in the recent Union cabinet expansion, OBC reservation in NEET all-India quota, and re-enabling states to decide backwardness through a constitutional amendment. With the UP elections next year, BJP is depending on a non-Yadav OBC mobilisation in its favour to tide over anti-incumbency.
But such efforts by the ruling party are setting off more of OBC politics from other parties. These include a constitutional amendment to set aside the 50% cap on quotas and a caste census to understand the relative position of castes in terms of numbers, material well-being and deprivation.
Both feed into each other and are capable of unleashing partisans for and against these demands. Earlier, BJP had piloted a commission to subcategorise OBCs but is now going slow on it, realising the unmanageable demands that are bound to rise in its aftermath, especially with hundreds of castes part of the OBC grouping. With UP being likened to a do-or-die battle, India and its politics of caste are at a crossroads.
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