Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on Friday said her party would support the Centre in Parliament and outside it if the government started taking “positive steps” towards conducting a census of Other Backward Classes.

“From the very beginning, the BSP has consistently demanded a census of OBCs in the country,” the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister wrote in a tweet in Hindi. “This continues to be a demand of the BSP.”

On July 20, the Union home ministry told Parliament that it had decided to not conduct a caste-based census. The Centre said that the only caste-wise data the next census would collate would be on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The announcement sparked a political debate, with several political parties stressing the need for a caste census.

On Thursday, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said he had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking an appointment to press for a caste-based census. Other prominent leaders from the state, including former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav, have also supported the demand.

Yadav has suggested that Kumar should lead a delegation, which could include the Leader of Opposition, to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discuss the matter, PTI reported.

A countrywide exercise to count the population of all caste groups was last conducted in 1931. In 1941, data on castes was collected but not published, according to The Indian Express.

In independent India, Census reports have published data noting the population of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not other caste groups.

However, several welfare programmes implemented by the central government are based on caste identities. In many parts of the country, caste plays a key role in politics.

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India urgently needs a caste census – so why isn’t the Modi government allowing one?