Odisha Chief Minister and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) President Naveen Patnaik Friday decided his party will field candidates from Other Backward Castes (OBC) for 27 per cent of seats in the forthcoming three-tier panchayat elections in the state.
This decision, which analysts are terming as a political masterstroke, was announced by Agriculture and Farmer Empowerment Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo and Co-operation Minister R N Swain at a press conference in Bhubaneswar.
“BJD President Naveen Patnaik has decided to field 27 per cent candidates from the OBC in the ensuing three-tire panchayat elections,” Sahoo told reporters adding that other political parties in the state should also give proportionate party tickets to OBCs.
The ruling party’s move came barely three days after a delegation of the BJD MPs met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in his Parliament chamber and submitted a memorandum seeking a legislation to raise quota for OBCs in the state.
Analysts said the move has come as a surprise for rival political parties and would work to Patnaik’s advantage in the forthcoming polls.
Sahoo said though the state government is unable to reserve seats for OBCs in education and jobs due to the 50 percent reservation ceiling by the court, Patnaik has decided to start the quota from within the party itself.
Sahoo said that BJD has been demanding 27 per cent of reservation for the OBCs in education, jobs and also in elections for a long time.
The minister also said the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2008 has provision for reservation of posts and services for OBCs. However, the quota has not been implemented as the Census is as yet not on the basis of Caste, making it difficult for the government to arrive at an accurate percentage of OBC population in the state.
BJD has also demands 33 per cent reservation of seats for the women in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. “Though there is no such provision for women quota in elections, the BJD in 2019 Lok Sabha elections fielded 33 per cent women candidates,” he pointed out.
The opposition BJP, however, criticized the BJD’s decision and accused the regional outfit of politicising the issue. “What prevented the state government from reserving seats for OBC candidates in education and jobs in Odisha. They should first give quotas to OBCs in jobs and education instead of doing vote bank politics,” said BJP leader Prithiwiraj Harichandan.
The BJP leader said that though the BJD continued to remain in power for about 21 years, it has neglected the OBCs.
Congress leader Gyam Beuria also criticized the BJD for making an announcement on OBC quota in the panchayat elections. “The government should first announce quota for OBCs in jobs and education before making politics,” he said.