Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday promised to conduct a caste census in Uttar Pradesh if voted to power in the Assembly elections scheduled to take place next year, PTI reported.

Yadav promised to ensure that the backward classes get their rights. He criticised the Centre for not undertaking the exercise.

“The BJP government at the Centre does not want to conduct caste census as it knows that backwards will demand their right and due respect after it,” Yadav claimed. “This is the biggest demand of backwards and Dalits.”

In August, Akhilesh Yadav had said that the caste census could be done in a short period of time, The New Indian Express reported.

“Today with the available technology, it [caste census] will not even take six months,” Yadav had said. “It can be done within three months or even less.”

He had also alleged that the BJP tried to create a divide between the backward classes in Uttar Pradesh, according to the newspaper

Political parties in other states such as Bihar, including Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), have also been persuading the Centre to undertake a caste-based census. The JD(U) is an ally of the BJP’s.

India had last conducted an exercise to count the population of all caste groups in 1931. 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.

The Centre has effectively ruled out conducting a caste census in the country. The government had told the Supreme Court on September 23 that the exercise would be “administratively difficult”.

The government had submitted an affidavit to the top court in response to a request made by the Maharashtra government for the release of the data of the 2011 socio-economic census. The Centre had said that the data had many technical flaws and was unusable.

Three days after that, Nitish Kumar urged the Centre to reconsider its position on undertaking a caste census. “It [caste census] will help in identifying castes which remain backward,” he had said, according to The Indian Express. “Consequently, corrective measures can be taken for their development.”

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Tamil Nadu’s Pattali Makkal Katchi have also joined the list of parties demanding a caste-based census in India.