Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will on Monday lead an all-party delegation from his state to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demand a caste-based Census. The team will include opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, a strong critic of the state government, and the state Mines and Geology Minister Janak Ram, a BJP legislator and a relative lightweight.
"The respected Prime Minister has granted time at 11 am the day after tomorrow. An entire list of the delegation has been sent to him and also members of the ten parties going to the meeting," Mr Kumar told reporters in Patna today.
"Right now, we are going to request that the Census must be conducted based on caste. It is up to the Centre to decide," he said.
If such an exercise is conducted for the whole nation, the Chief Minister said, it would be "very beneficial". He told media persons that there was demand everywhere for such an exercise.
The idea of such a delegation was mooted by the Mahagatbandhan alliance led by Mr Yadav, which had formally urged the Chief Minister to seek an appointment with PM Modi.
The BJP, an ally in Mr Kumar's NDA regime in Bihar, has named Mr Ram as its representative in the delegation and not the Deputy Chief Ministers it has in the government.
This is significant and shows that PM Modi's party doesn't want to miss the caste-based Census bus. Yet, it is also signalling to its upper castes constituency that the party was being coerced into joining the delegation even though it was not important enough for senior leaders to be part of.
On August 9, Mr Kumar had said that if the Central government does not hold such a Census, a discussion may be initiated in the state on carrying out an exercise to enumerate caste data in Bihar. His statement came days after failing to elicit any response to a letter he wrote to PM Modi on the matter.
A few days later, Mr Yadav said the Prime Minister had insulted Chief Minister Kumar by not granting him the time sought to meet and discuss the matter.
Fresh demands for a caste-based Census have been triggered by a statement by the Centre in Parliament recently that an exercise to ascertain the population of only Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was under consideration.