Vikash Sharma

 After coming under attack from the Opposition parties for allegedly denying reservations to the other backward classes (OBCs) in employment and education, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Friday played the caste card ahead of the upcoming three-tier Panchayat polls in the State.

The major regional party, led by supremo Naveen Patnaik, today announced 27 per cent reservation for candidates belonging to the Socially & Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) in the upcoming Panchayat polls and other elections in the State.

The decision was announced by two senior ministers in the BJD-led State government- Ranendra Pratap Swain and Arun Sahoo at a presser in Bhubaneswar today.

“It is a historic day for the people of Odisha, especially those who have been neglected. The BJD has decided to reserve 27 percent of its’ tickets for SEBC candidates in Panchayat or any other elections in the State,” said Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain.

Swain said BJD will be the first party in the country to give reservations to SEBC candidates. BJD’s move will certainly pave way to ensure social justice as party MPs have been fighting since long for caste-based census.

Minister Arun Sahoo said BJD supremo, Naveen Patnaik, has decided to rope in SEBC candidates in the forthcoming Panchayat and subsequent elections in the State.

“Due to the 50 per cent cap decided by the Supreme Court and as there hasn’t been any Central law to determine reservations, the BJD has taken a political decision to give 27 per cent seats to SEBC candidates in Panchayat and susquent polls in the State,” said Sahoo.

Sahoo also took a dig at the Opposition parties and asked the BJP and Congress to follow suit.

Reacting to the BJD’s move in the run up to the Panchayat polls, senior BJP leader, Prithviraj Harichandan said, “If the State government really wants to respect OBC reservation, it should first announce reservation for them in education and employment. Roping in OBC candidates for election is an internal affair of BJD. However, the fact remains that the State government has not taken any step to implement 27 percent reservation for OBCs in education and employment so far.”

Taking a dig at the State government, Convenor of Congress media cell Satya Prakash Nayak said, "Lakhs of students belonging to OBC and SEBC are deprived of reservation in education and jobs. The people of Odisha should know how Naveen Patnaik government hoodwinked them.”

The BJP on Thursday had hit out at the State government for denying 27 pc reservation to the other backward classes (OBCs) in employment and education.

A delegation of BJD had recently met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and demanded for a Central law that removes the 50 per cent cap on reservations as fixed by the Supreme Court.