Front pages on Bihar’s caste survey: How Nitish ‘stole a march’ over BJP and Congress

The Bihar CM dominated all headlines in what The Telegraph called a ‘flaming dare’ to the BJP.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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The results of the Bihar caste survey are out. OBCs comprise 27 percent of the state’s population while EBCs make up 36 percent – a total of 63 percent. Hindus make up over 80 percent of the population and Muslims a little over 17 percent.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accused the opposition of “trying to divide the country in the name of caste”, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has called an all-party meeting today to discuss the way ahead today. 

The results and the subsequent controversies made their way to the front pages of major newspapers today. 

In the words of the Indian Express, “At a time when the BJP and Congress are vying with each other for the OBC vote in the coming elections, Bihar Chief Minister and JDU supremo Nitish Kumar on Monday stole a march over them.”

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A report on page 5 pointed out that the state government’s decision to conduct the survey was challenged in the courts and is still “awaiting final outcome” in the Supreme Court. “It has been challenged on the grounds that it violates the Supreme Court’s privacy judgement and is actually a census in the garb of a survey”.

The top half of The Hindu in Delhi was split between the caste survey results and the winners of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Medicine. The main headline read “At 35%, EBCs largest group in Bihar, shows caste study”. The report quoted the INDIA alliance as saying the country needs a nationwide caste census too to ensure “social justice” to deprived classes.

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Hindustan Times devoted its opening flap to the caste census, as well as leading with the story on page 1 of its Delhi edition.

The flap had four charts that “decode” the results: the OBC share, the schedule of subcastes, most dominant subcastes, and variations within OBCs that was not covered by the data.

Page one’s story noted that ground realities have shifted since the 1990s after the BJP “built on its successful strategy to mobilise less-dominant backward and Dalit groups into a broader Hindu umbrella”.

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The Telegraph in Kolkata, in its usual fashion, used this headline on page 1: “Nitish’s Mandal 2.0 in Modi’s face”.  Publishing the results on October 2 was a “flaming dare to the BJP”, it said.

“Upper castes, if the Muslim component of Sheikhs, Sayyads and Pathans is subtracted, make up only a little more than 10 percent, several percentage points less than hitherto believed figures,” the report said. “The numbers will be music to the INDIA coalition; they will rankle in BJP’s ears.”

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The New Indian Express led with a photo for “Bapu’s day” on page one, with a story on the caste survey right below it. On Monday, Bihar “became the first state to share the findings of its gamechanger caste census”, the report said. 

“A visibly elated Chief Minister Nitish Kumar sidestepped queries about whether the survey would prove to be Mandal 2.0, triggering demands for revised quotas for different cases in proportion to their population.”

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We also looked at the top two Hindi newspapers in Bihar to see what they said.

Coverage in Prabhat Khabar spanned the entirety of page one. The headline said “Bihar mein…jaatiyon ki khuli gaanth...”, translating to “In Bihar…the knot of caste has been opened”. The strap said: “After 92 years, the caste figures”.

The report said: “After all the roadblocks and complexities, caste-based population report has finally become a reality. Bihar is the first state which has released the report in public. Before this, during the British era, caste census was done.”

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The report in Hindustan was headlined “Bihar has over 63 percent backwards”. The strap said, “Survey report: After Independence, for the first time, figures of caste-based census has been released.”

The report highlighted four key points: “Bihar has over 13 crore population; the caste-based census was completed in 48 days; At least 53 castes have less than 1 percent population in the state; and over 2,000 people do not follow any faith.”

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Newslaundry has previously analysed how the caste survey will play out in Bihar’s power matrix. Read all about it here.

Also see
article imageNitish Kumar is fighting a two-pronged battle – in Bihar and at the centre


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