Cast Census Could Become An Important Election Issue. But…

Assembly elections of many major states are to be held this year and after that Lok Sabha elections are also scheduled in 2024. 

In such a situation, the opposition parties may have found a common issue to counter the might of the mighty Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge has already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding that the Socio-Economic and Caste Census data be released. 

This census was conducted in 2011-12 and covered 25 crore households. However, its figures were not released.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has also demanded that these figures be released. He has argued that the limit of 50 per cent in caste-based reservation has been exhausted. 

Such demands are not new but the time in which this has been raised indicates that the basic idea is to make social justice an election issue.

Now it has to be seen whether it proves effective in the elections, but at the moment the country is at a turning point, it does not seem right to focus on caste politics.

Definitely the idea of ​​caste based census is going to lead to more reservation and this will lead to change in government expenditure. 

Regional parties have strongly supported this idea. Caste-based census is also being done in Bihar.

 There was also a demand that caste-based information should be collected in the census to be held every decade, which was postponed in 2021 due to the pandemic.

It was argued that the last such census was conducted in 1931 when India was a British colony and still the situation needed to be reviewed to ensure better social justice. 

Affirmative action has been taken in the form of reservation on the basis of caste in government jobs and educational institutions.

 Since the 2021 census has been pushed forward and news reports suggest that it may not happen before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, it could become an important election issue.

The government told Parliament in 2021 that as a policy it has decided not to count the rest of the population on the basis of caste, except for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 

But it is not yet clear from the political point of view that if this issue gains momentum from the electoral point of view, then what will the BJP do. 

So far the BJP has been able to successfully leverage religious identity beyond caste. In such a situation, she would not like to leave any stone unturned politically.

In such a situation, it is possible that the talk of caste and religion can be seen in the political debate. 

Rather caste based census itself will prove to increase social division. The Other Backward Classes that receive the most attention are not a homogeneous group. 

There are many sub-castes in it and different castes have been given different status in different states.

Apart from this, dominant castes in many states are demanding reservation in this category. A fresh look at reservation may give rise to demands which may be difficult to meet.

It is therefore important that the Indian political discourse rises above the divide of caste and religion and focuses on economic development. 

There is no doubt that the underprivileged and the poor should get proper opportunities but merely increasing the reservation will not help. India needs more quality jobs and better educational institutions at all levels.

The inability of the Indian state to provide these is the basic reason why the demand for reservation is increasing day by day. 

This may help political parties in the short term but it will not solve the problem.

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