Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said that his government will soon begin to work towards conducting a caste-based census in the state, PTI reported.

“It will not take long,” Kumar told reporters in Patna. “We will convene an all-party meeting where representatives can give their suggestions. It will be followed by a Cabinet approval. Modalities like how many officials to deploy etc. will also be worked out.”

Kumar said that he has conveyed this to the leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav, who had met him last week to discuss the matter.

The Janata Dal (United) chief also said that an all-party could have taken place earlier but was delayed due to other engagements, including elections.

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 too.

The Centre has 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”.

Three days later, Kumar had 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. “Consequently, corrective measures can be taken for their development.”

On August 23, Kumar had also led a delegation of 10 political parties from Bihar to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press for the caste census. This was after the Union home ministry told Parliament that it had decided not to conduct such a census.