New Delhi: Faced with a challenge to his
traditional OBC-Muslim vote base from ruling NDA in poll-bound
Bihar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad appears to be making inclusion of
caste in census and opposition to women`s reservation bill as
his major planks to woo the electorate.
Strongly pitching for incorporating caste in census, he
said opposing it now could even spark a "mass agitation".
Prasad also insisted that such an exercise should not be seen
as anti-upper caste.
On the women`s quota bill, he made it clear that he would
oppose it "tooth and nail" if it is brought before Lok Sabha
in its present form. "This government will go if the bill is
brought in its present form," he told agency.
Referring to the issue of caste, he said, "We are not
advocating for including caste in census to provoke any
dispute between the backward and the forward castes.
"Our demand is not against any section. We are not
against upper caste people. We feel the enumeration of caste
will help everybody and it is very much needed."
Hitting out at the "so-called intellectuals" opposing
such a census, he said, "These people who consider themselves
as think tank are opposing it. These are the same people who
had opposed Mandal Commission recommendations (for reservation
"Inclusion of caste in census has to happen. It will
happen. How can you not do it. We will get it done. After all,
this is a commitment made by the Prime Minister before
Parliament and the nation," Prasad said.
He was hopeful that the government`s decision to form a
Group of Ministers to look into the issue is not a "delaying
tactics" and expressed the confidence that the enumeration of
caste in the census would begin from February next year.
OBC leaders from other political parties have also come
out in support of such an exercise. There are differences of
opinion within the national parties on the issue.
The strong demand for inclusion of caste in census by
Prasad as well as SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is being seen
in political circles as an attempt to regain their hold over
OBC vote bank in Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
On the issue of women`s bill, Prasad said there is no
change in his party`s stand and he would continue to oppose
"tooth and nail" the legislation in its present form.
"The bill for women`s reservation in its existing form is
a conspiracy to keep Muslims out of politics and quell the
emerging political leadership among Dalits and OBCs.
"We would oppose the bill tooth and nail if it is brought
before Lok Sabha in its present form. This government will go
if the bill is brought in its present form," he said.
The RJD chief said he is not against reservation for
women as such, but the bill should give representation "to
real women, those who are working in the fields."
The existing bill should be amended to provide quota for
women from SC/ST communities and minorities, otherwise the
House will not see its passage, Prasad said.
Prasad along with Mulayam Yadav and JD-U chief Sharad
Yadav had been fiercely opposing the bill in its present form,
which was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 9 after a
high-voltage drama that culminated into suspension and
marshalling out of nine MPs from RJD, SP and LJP who were
protesting against it.
The political base of the RJD and the Samajwadi Party in
UP and Bihar consisted mainly of OBC and Muslims.
Asked about Bihar government`s move to reach out to
Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) and Mahadalits by segregating
them from the relatively well-off castes from OBCs and Dalits,
Prasad said, "Nitish Kumar (Bihar CM) has only made lofty
promises. He did nothing for EBCs or Mahadalits. People have
seen (through) his game and he will not get their votes."
On Naxal issue, Prasad said that people are turning
Naxalites because social justice is not reaching them.
"Those who did not get justice became Naxals," Prasad
said but maintained that the path of violence adopted by
Maoists is unjustified and they will not succeed in bringing
any social change through this method.
"If a government works for and with the people, Naxals
will be isolated," he added.
Prasad chose not to hide his anguish when asked whether
he felt hurt when Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee brought out
a white paper denying the profit claims of Railways during his
"Has anyone challenged our figures? She could not
challenge our figures. The while paper had only ifs and buts
and it did not prove the allegation that there was any
jugglery in profit figures given by my ministry," Prasad said.
He said that seven projects for rail factories were
mooted for Bihar during his tenure of which only one appears
to be happening now. "Mamataji has put the rest six in PPP
(public private partnership) mode. Let us see when does it
start," Prasad said.