Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday said that the Bharatiya Janata Party does not oppose the caste census, but added that any decision about conducting the exercise will be taken after due deliberation and wide consultations, The New Indian Express reported.

“We are a national political party and don’t go by vote bank politics,” Shah said. “Only after extensive consultations with all on the issue, we will take an appropriate decision. Merely using it [caste census] to win the polls is not right.”

Shah made the comments, in response to reporters’ questions, while releasing the BJP’s election manifesto for the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh.

The comments come at a time when Opposition parties are demanding a nationwide caste census to corner the ruling BJP.

The Bihar government launched a caste survey in January after the BJP government at the Centre said it would not undertake such an exercise for communities other than the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as part of the decennial Census. The findings of this survey were released by the Bihar government on October 2. It revealed that the Other Backward Classes and the Extremely Backward Classes constitute over 63% of the state’s population.

Bihar’s ruling coalition mainly comprises Opposition bloc parties – the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress – has argued that a caste survey will help identify the true population of the Other Backward Classes and other castes, allowing the state to craft policies for them more efficiently and equitably.

Subsequently, the Congress announced after a meeting of its working committee on October 9 that it will carry out a nationwide caste census if voted to power in next year’s Lok Sabha elections. The Congress has also promised to conduct caste census in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana if it wins the upcoming Assembly elections. In August, the Congress government in Rajasthan ordered the exercise to be conducted in the state.

Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the Congress for demanding a nationwide caste census, asking whether the party wanted to reduce the rights of minorities.

Also read:

Why the Opposition’s support for a caste census falters in some states

Caste census: Why the liberal intelligentsia’s opposition is misplaced