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JD(U), LJP Demand Reviewing Agnipath Scheme, Nation-wide Cast Census

JD(U), LJP Demand Reviewing Agnipath Scheme, Nation-wide Cast Census

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 6: The Narendra Modi government 3: is likely to be compelled to revisit the Agnipath scheme for recruitment for the defence forces and order caste census, the two measures the Narendra Modi Government 2: had been opposing tooth and nail.

Even while claiming that the Janata Dal (United) had extended “unconditional support” to the Modi-led NDA government at the centre, the party spokesman KC Tyagi, however, said his party has demanded a review of the Agnipath scheme and will “pursue” the caste census issue which, he asserted, was a need of the time. “There is anger among voters on the (short-term army recruitment) Agniveer scheme. Our party wants those shortcomings to be removed, on which people have objections,” Mr Tyagi told reporters.

Another BJP ally from Bihar, Chirag Paswan, whose Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) has pulled off a stunner by winning all five Lok Sabha seats it contested, said he too was in favour of a review of the Agnipath scheme and a nationwide caste census. Mr Paswan’s is the second NDA ally after JDU to push for the Agnipath review and caste census.

With the BJP falling short by 32 seats to secure a majority of its own, the Modi3 government would be on crutches of the TDP, JD(U), LJP and Shiv Sena (Shinde) to stay in the office. With two of the four parties already publicly raised the demands for reviewing Agnipath scheme and going for nation-wide caste census, it might be difficult for the new Modi government to avoid these for long.

The outgoing Modi government had rejected the opposition demand for caste census and despite nation-wide agitation by the young job-seekers in the initial phases had refused to reconsider the Agnipath scheme which guarantee only 25 per cent of the recruits to be continue in the defence services after four years and the rest 75 per cent to return to civilian lives and look afresh for other openings.

The opposition INDIA bloc, in its election promise, had condemned the Agniveer scheme and vowed to scrap it if elected. Earlier this month, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote to President Droupadi Murmu urging intervention in the Agnipath scheme to address what he called “discrimination” in benefits provided to the families of deceased soldiers.

The government has consistently backed the scheme, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah strongly supporting it for “its attractiveness to youth as it guarantees a full-term job after their four-year service in the armed forces.”

At the behest of the Modi government, General Anil Chauhan, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), had also said the Agnipath scheme was significant in nurturing a young and dynamic military profile. He said the scheme contributed to nation-building by cultivating skilled, disciplined, and motivated youth.

The opposition has also banked on the demand for a caste-based census and Bihar also conducted it while Nitish Kumar was chief minister under Mahagathbandhan government. But the Modi government had consistently opposed it and had also told the voters that the INDIA bloc if voted to power would also take away the existing reservation benefits of the backward classes to give the same to the Muslims.

The support of the JD(U) and LJP along with TDP was crucial for the new NDA government and would be difficult for the prime minister in the new set up to ignore their demands.

The 12-member JD(U) while insisting that it would remain steadfast in the NDA and that there was no condition attached in extending support to Mr Modi, also said the party expect at least three “respectable” cabinet berths for the party in the new government. The party sources also specified that it was keen on portfolios such as railways, rural development, agriculture, water resources and heavy industries.

“We are now eyeing up to three Cabinet berths…,” the JD(U) leader said. “The matter of Cabinet berths will be decided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and our party chief Nitish Kumar ji. But, it should be respectable,” Shrawan Kumar, JD(U) leader and Bihar Rural Development Minister, said. He also said the matter of representation in the Union Cabinet should be decided keeping the 2025 Bihar Assembly polls in mind.

In 2019, a “token representation” of just one berth had been turned down by Nitish Kumar and his party had quit the NDA soon afterwards and joined the “Mahagathbandhan” of the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Among the frontrunners for ministerial berths in the party include its Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Jha, Rajiv Ranjan Singh ‘Lalan’, Kaushalendra Kumar, Ramprit Mandal and Lovely Anand, they said.

Mr Paswan with just five MPs is also eying the railway portfolio and “at least one more cabinet berth,” while the TDP is learnt to have already demanded the post of speaker of the Lok Sabha and “at least six cabinet berths” in exchange of support for the Modi government.

In addition, demands for special status for Andhra Pradesh and Bihar requiring additional financial aids to the two states from the centre for developmental projects are certain to be revived by the two crucial aides. It was on the refusal to accept their demands for special status that the TDP and the JD(U) had earlier quit the NDA.



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