Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday asserted that he will take up the demand for caste-based census with the Centre and that in the event of a disagreement over the issue his government would keep the "option open" for a state-specific exercise.
Kumar, whose JD(U) is an ally of the BJP at the Centre as well as in the state, reiterated that the sentiment in Bihar was unanimously in favour of a caste-based census which would "benefit all sections of the society and facilitate more effective governance".
"I have intimated most political parties about my plan to write (to the Prime Minister) on the issue today. BJP too has been intimated about the same. We must state what we think about the issue. It is up to the centre to accept our request or reject it", he told reporters on the sidelines of his weekly public interaction programme-Janata ke Darbar mein Mukhya Mantri.
Dismissing outright fears that a census of all castes could lead to social tensions, Kumar said "when the legislature unanimously passed resolutions in support on two occasions, members of all parties and from all castes and religions supported it. There should be no misgivings".
Observing that findings of the SECC (socio economic caste census) conducted during the previous Congress-led UPA regime were not made public because of "doubts over statistical accuracy", the Bihar chief minister said "it would be therefore prudent to have a head count of castes while the census is on".
"It must take place at least once. It would benefit all social segments.Governance too will improve as schemes aimed at targeted betterment of different social segments would become more effective", he said.
Notably, Bihar has been abuzz with fresh demands for a caste-based census ever since the Parliament was recently informed that such an exercise was being proposed for only the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
The bicameral Bihar legislature had unanimously passed resolution in favour of caste-census in 2019 as well as in 2020.
Caste-based census other than for SCs and STs has not been undertaken in the country after 1931.
A JD(U)'s Parliamentary delegation met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi during the day and handed over a memorandum in support of caste-bases census.
Both Kumar’s party and the opposition RJD headed by his arch rival Lalu Prasad have vociferously supported inclusion of the OBCs who have emerged as the most politically influential social group in Bihar since the implementation of Mandal Commission.
Last week, leader of the opposition Grand Alliance Tejashwi Yadav had led a delegation which met the chief minister requesting that he seek an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apprise him over the issue.
The opposition leaders had expressed the wish that the chief minister meet the PM as the head of a delegation comprising members of all parties.
Kumar had accepted the request.
Asked about the second suggestion made by the opposition coalition that if the centre was reluctant the state government should consider conducting a caste based census on its own, Kumar said "the option will be open for us".