PATNA: The Centre must conduct a caste census in view of the "popular" sentiment and the BJP should resolve its "inner conflict" evident in some leaders supporting the demand and others taking a contrary stand, a key political aide of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said here on Thursday.
The remarks came from Upendra Kushwaha, a former Union minister who is now the parliamentary board head of the JD(U) controlled by the Bihar chief minister, days after the latter met Prime Minister Narendra Modi heading an all-party delegation from the state to discuss the issue.
Bihar, where politics has been dominated by the numerically powerful OBCs, is witnessing a consolidation of sorts of parties in support of the demand ever since the Centre told Parliament that enumeration of only the SCs and the STs was under consideration.
This has left the chief minister, an old NDA partner, and his arch rival Lalu Prasad, who heads the RJD and whom he had unseated from power, on the same page.
Initially, the state BJP seemed to be in agreement with the demand and its legislators even voted in favour of the two resolutions seeking a caste based census which got passed unanimously.
However, the Centre's recent averment has dropped signals that the top leadership might be taking a different view resulting in state leaders, especially those from the upper castes, criticising the demand for caste census, calling it a 'divisive exercise'.
"There is conflict within the BJP over the issue. Some of its leaders are speaking in favour, some are speaking against. They need to set their house in order," Kushwaha, who was a Union minister under Modi, said.
He had briefly parted ways with Kumar and floated Rashtriya Lok Samata Party.
Kushwaha, who recently merged his RLSP with the JD(U), a move seen as part of Nitish Kumar's strategy to consolidate his Kurmi-Koeri support base, also scoffed at suggestions that with not much time left for census, a headcount for all castes might have to wait for a decade.
"What is the problem in this digital age? You just have to insert an additional column of caste. I do not pay much heed to pointless objections. I am hopeful that the meeting of our CM with the PM will bear fruit and the Centre will do the needful," said Kushwaha, a strong votary of reservation politics who has been advocating quotas in the judiciary and the private sector.
The JD(U) leader, whose reported remark at a seminar here the previous day warning of a crisis within the NDA in the event of the demand for caste census going unheeded has created ripples, sought to scale down his pitch.
"We do not have any reason to think about such a scenario. Our CM has said he was hopeful of a positive response from the Centre. I share the optimism," said Kushwaha.