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Lalu renews social justice cry, demands provisions for backwards in Budget

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:26 IST

The politics

  • The social justice campaign has been the cornerstone of Lalu\'s politics
  • He had promised \'Mandal raj part two\' on the campaign trail in Bihar

The demand

  • At the RJD\'s national executive meet, Lalu was elected party president for the ninth successive term
  • He demanded that the govt make special provisions for backward classes in the Union Budget

More in the story

  • Why is Lalu raising this battle cry at this moment?
  • What alliance partner JD(U) thinks about Lalu\'s demand

Facing 'jungle raj' barbs during the campaign for the Bihar assembly elections, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav had thundered that instead, it will be 'Mandal raj part two' if the grand alliance came to power.

If his announcement at RJD's national executive meet on 17 January is anything to go by, he appears to have decided to follow through on his promise.

Among the many issues that he hit out at the BJP for, Lalu's speech had a special place for the next stage of the social justice campaign that has been the cornerstone of his politics.

Addressing party workers after being 'elected' as party chief for the ninth consecutive term, he demanded from the Central government separate budgetary provisions for backward classes in the Union Budget, in proportion to their population.

At RJD's national executive, Lalu demanded separate provisions for OBCs & EBCs in the Union Budget

Lalu demanded that these provisions be brought in from the forthcoming budget itself, and threatened that his party will gherao the government if Finance Minister Arun Jaitley failed to do so.

Indicating another demand that could be taken up later, he also demanded a separate ministry for backward classes.

Prime reason for the demand

RJD national spokesperson Manoj Jha told Catch that this demand included not just OBCs, but EBCs as well, noting that 11 Five-Year Plans and multiple schemes later, there are millions who are still on the margins of development. Jha also confirmed that if this demand was not met, the party would indeed be constrained to launch a nationwide movement.

Jha explained that the background of this demand was the Union government's move to withhold caste-related data that emerged from the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) of 2011. The government had released the economic data in July 2015, but refrained from revealing the caste-related data, saying states were yet to verify the data that had been sent to them.

The economic data had revealing insights on poverty and deprivation, broadly confirming that benefits of growth had not reached a large section of the population.

Read- Grim picture: What the SECC data reveals about India's poor

In July, not just Lalu, but OBC leaders in several other parties, including the BJP, had demanded the release of the caste data. Lalu had threatened to go on a massive offensive against the NDA government if the data was not released.

Who are the people surviving on alms?

At the RJD national executive, Lalu quoted economic data from the SECC and told party workers that 7.05 crore of the 17.91 crore families living in rural areas had an annual income less than Rs 10,000. He also mentioned that 4.08 lakh families were rag pickers, 6.68 lakh families begged for survival, while 56% of the rural population was landless.

Lalu reportedly announced that the RJD wanted to know who were these people "surviving on rag-picking and alms", which caste they belonged to, and why was the government concealing their caste identity?

Also read- The numbers game: why hiding caste survey data might hurt the BJP

On the demand for special budgetary provisions, Jha told Catch that these were broad outlines at this stage, and the specifics would be worked out and announced soon. He also informed that no official communication had been sent to the Union government so far.

As far as other 'like-minded' parties were concerned, their support was yet to be officially sought, Jha added.

JD(U) agrees, but won't push for it

RJD's alliance partner JD(U) said it supported the demand. General secretary KC Tyagi echoed RJD leaders when he told Catch that it was important to know who were the deprived sections of the society, who were yet to become a part of the socio-economic mainstream. Only then would it be possible to take specific steps for their betterment, he noted, adding that the budgetary demand was Lalu's idea and it was a good one.

The demand is based the govt's failure to release caste data from the Socio-Economic Caste Census

Tyagi differed with the RJD in giving the NDA government an ultimatum. He said: "Let the government announce its support for the demand in principal, and then we could wait till the next budget, if there isn't enough time left for including it in the forthcoming one."

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First published: 19 January 2016, 5:35 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.