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Mrunal Manmay Dash

The temperature rose in the political corridors of Odisha on Wednesday after a delegation of MPs from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) called on Union Home Mister Amit Shah and submitted a memorandum demanding caste-based census in the State.

The delegation consisted of BJD members from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha led by the MP from Puri, Pinaki Mishra.

They met Shah and submitted a memorandum at the latter's chamber in the Parliament where they expressly wanted the conduct of caste-based census to identify the exact number of SEBC (Socially & Economically Backward Class) and OBC (Other Backward Class) population in the State.

Pinaki Mishra said, “The census will make the actual number of OBCs and SEBCs clear in the State paving way for the reservation.”

The memorandum also contained a request from BJD to create a backdoor entry for the State to bypass the Supreme Court Order which capped the total reservation at 50 percent. “The Central government should move the Supreme Court or, even better, bring in a separate bill to empower the states to raise the reservation cap to more than 50 percent,” added Mishra.

However, the BJD move brought criticisms from the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Odisha which termed it as 'opportunistic' and an 'attempt to take undue credit'.

“What was the party doing all these times since its formation? It was an ally at the Centre for so many years. The BJD ran to the Home Minister only after the Centre led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi made amendments in the Constitution(127th amendment) to safeguard the interests of SEBC and OBCs. The move by BJD is nothing but an eyewash,” said BJP MP Suresh Pujari.

Similarly, senior Congress leader and former MP Bhakta Charan Das said, “BJD lacks dedication here. If they are so concerned for the backward classes, then why did they not provide reservation for 27 percent and remained contended by reserving only 11 percent seats in the State.”

Earlier in the day both BJD and BJP had a face-off in the Rajya Sabha over OBC reservation issue. Lambasting BJD MP Prasanna Acharya in the House who urged the Centre to make caste-based census in the States after the Orissa High Court rejected their plea in 2014, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, “Why did not the Odisha government move the Supreme Court after the HC rejected its plea in 2014.

Odisha is perhaps the only State where a State list already exists and the reservation policy has not been based on that list,” said Pradhan.

It is worthwhile to mention here that the Odisha Cabinet in January 2020 had resolved to impress upon the Central Government to go for Socio-Economic Caste Enumeration along with the 2021 general census, noting that no formal census including the caste details of the population has been undertaken since 1931.

However, the Union government had rejected the proposal in July 2021 and decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise population other than SCs and STs in the census.

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