On Friday, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) announced a reservation for OBCs in Odisha panchayat polls. The BJD president and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik have decided to give at least 27 percent of its tickets to OBC candidates in the three-tier panchayat polls that are scheduled to take place in early 2022. The BJD's decision to give 27 percent of their seats in the panchayat polls for OBCs comes two days after it demanded a central law empowering states to put an end to the 50 percent cap on the reservation and appropriate columns in the Census 2021 form for the identification of SEBCs.
Food supplies minister and senior BJD leader Ranendra Pratap Swain revealed that the Odisha Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik has decided to reserve 27 percent of its tickets to OBC candidates in the upcoming three-tier Odisha panchayat polls that will be held next year. Swain said, "It is a historic day for the people of Odisha as the ruling BJD has decided to reserve 27% of party tickets for socially and educationally backward candidates in all elections." "Due to the cap on the percentage of reservation and as there is no central law to determine it, the BJD has taken a political decision to field 27 percent OBC/SEBC candidates in panchayat and subsequent polls in the state," added Swain, who himself is a backward caste leader. Another backward caste leader and state agriculture minister, Arun Sahoo also asked the BJP and Congress to extend their support if they really cared for the neglected population.
The BJD's decision to give 27 percent of their seats in the panchayat polls for OBCs comes two days after it demanded a central law empowering states to put an end to the 50 percent cap on the reservation and appropriate columns in the Census 2021 form for the identification of SEBCs. BJD had argued that the Supreme Court and several high courts have struck down quota for OBCs considering the policies that were made without any scientific database on their population.
Earlier in February, the party got the Odisha State Backward Classes (Amendment) Bill passed in the state assembly that enabled the Backward Class Commission survey of the social and economic conditions of the backward classes in the eastern Indian state. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who put the Bill forward stated that it was important to have reliable data about the Backward Classes of the state as the last census survey was conducted in 1931. He added that the data is not enough for accurate and focused planning to reach out to the OBCs of the society.
Odisha panchayat polls are to be held in the month of February 2022. It would determine the growth or decline of the main opposition party BJP since it recorded a major rise in Zilla Parishad seats surpassing Congress as the principal opposition party. Of the 851 Zilla Parishad seats that went to the polls in the year 2017, BJP won 297 seats with a 33 percent vote share. Zilla Parishads are the only tier of the Panchayati Raj system where elections are held on party symbols. The other two - Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat - are fought at an individual level. Moreover, Naveen Patnaik's government in the year 2012's panchayat polls, had reserved 50 percent of the seats in Panchayati Raj bodies. Before 2019's General Election, the party had given 33 percent Lok Sabha tickets to its women candidates.