Politics over providing reservation to Other Backward Class (OBC) candidates in rural polls heated up in Odisha with the opposition BJP and the Congress rejecting the ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) decision to select 40% of its candidates from OBCs.
Both the BJP and the Congress said the OBC communities, which constituted more than 50% of the State’s population, did not want charity, but their representation should be guaranteed in proportion to their population through constitutional mechanism.
The State government has released draft reservation list for zilla parishad and panchayat samitis and sarpanch without OBC quota.
The BJP Legislature Party on Wednesday moved the State Election Commissioner seeking to ensure adequate representation for the OBCs in panchayat elections through a constitutional mechanism which was in line of the Supreme Court order and subsequent appeal of the Centre.
“Going ahead with present elections without reservation to OBCs will deprive them of their rights for next five years,” BJP MLAs said.
Last week, a Division Bench of the Orissa High Court comprising Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice A.K. Mohapatra cited the case of Rahul Ramesh Wagh vs State of Maharashtra, in which the Supreme Court held that it was mandatory for a ‘triple test’ to be fulfilled prior to making reservation for OBCs.
The Bench found the Naveen Patnaik government not adhering to the ‘triple test’ — setting up the OBC commission, its recommendation for specifying proportion of reservation and total reservation not exceeding 50%.
Following the High Court order, the State government’s notification for OBC reservation in the coming panchayat elections became infructuous. To deal with the judicial fallout, the BJD had announced that 40% of its candidates would be from the OBC communities.
BJP legislators said, “The move of the Odisha government to proceed with the panchayat elections without reservation to OBCs is contrary to the objective, intent and purpose of the constitutional scheme of advancement and adequate representations of OBCs.”
“Persons belonging to the OBC category are deprived of an opportunity to be elected to the elected positions through democratic process and fulfil the aspiration of not only the members of OBC community, but everyone else. Such inadequate representation or non-representation deprives the voters belonging to the OBC community to elect one amongst them to the elected offices,” they said.
State BJP president Sameer Mohanty accused the BJD government of being indifferent to the OBC cause. “The Naveen Patnaik government has never explored the constitutional mechanism to give OBC communities quota in job and education. The communities have suffered. When other State governments have moved the Supreme Court seeking reservation in favour of the OBCs, the BJD government has not shown the urgency,” Mr. Mohanty charged.
Congress leader Satya Prakash Nayak said, “Giving reservation to OBCs is not a party affair. The reservation should be done in a way that it should be mandatory for all to follow. The Congress has been selecting more than 40% of its candidates in previous elections. It has never bragged about it like the BJD.”
“Even the BJP is a culprit in not providing the OBCs adequate representation. What stopped the powerful BJP government at the Centre from ensuring reservation for OBCs through Parliamentary route or putting forth strong argument at the Supreme Court,” questioned Mr. Nayak.
Meanwhile, former Union Minister Srikant Jena urged the Odisha Chief Minister to postpone the panchayat elections till reservation for the OBCs is guaranteed. He called upon Mr. Patnaik to hold a special session of the Odisha Assembly to pass a resolution in favour of OBC reservation.
“The Centre had also moved the Supreme Court for revision of its decision on OBC reservation. The Odisha government should immediately put forth its side strongly in the Supreme Court,” said Mr. Jena.