Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's suggestion at the Cabinet meeting on May 26 paved the way for the setting up of the Group of Ministers on caste enumeration.

He had suggested at the meeting that the complexity of the issue demanded a more detailed discussion, possible only in a meeting of the GoM.

At that Cabinet meeting — the second to discuss the issue after the meet on May 4 — the sense that emerged was that the mood across the political spectrum was in favour of a caste-based Census and to resist it would place the UPA on the wrong side of history. Indeed, at that meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal pointed out that since there was across-the-board support for it, as reflected in the parliamentary debate on the issue, the government should go ahead with it.

Sources said the government was most likely to accept Mr. Chidambaram's suggestion that the caste-based headcount should be done after the Census figures are tabulated, during the biometric capture phase when photographing, fingerprinting and iris mapping of citizens for the National Population Register (NPR) are done, rather than attempting it during the second phase.

Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken, who had hit the headlines after writing an impassioned letter to all young MPs opposing a caste-based census, took stock of the ongoing Census exercise on Tuesday. He appealed to the people to retain the slips given to them after they submitted filled-up Census forms.

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