The winter session of the Odisha Assembly turned stormy from the very outset over the recent Cabinet decision on the tribal land sale and transfer, though the state government has put the decision on hold.
For the second day, the House could not function properly before being adjourned eventually amid the opposition’s persistent uproar pressuring the government to withdraw the decision.
Raising the issue, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress are trying to push the government to the wall while the latter seems to be on the back foot. In the House, Revenue Minister Sudam Marndi in his reply argued that since the Cabinet decision on the tribal land issue was not a matured one and withheld later and hence the opposition should not stall the proceedings of the House.
To add symbolism to their protests, some BJP legislators came to the House, wearing tribal and ethnic dress, and pressed for the withdrawal of the decision instead of putting it on hold. The House was noisy as BJP MLAs shouted slogans after their motion for a debate on tribal rights was turned down by the Speaker. As the din continued, the Speaker had to adjourn the House for the day.
After the adjournment of the House, the opposition leaders also held protests outside the Assembly. Chief whip of the Opposition Mohan Majhi accused the government of hatching a deep conspiracy to rob the tribals of their lands. “It is a sensitive and important issue. If the decision is not withdrawn, the tribals will become landless in the future. Hence, we demand complete withdrawal of the Cabinet decision on the tribal land sale and transfer, not the temporary withholding,” he noted.
Similarly, the Congress launched a scathing attack on the government, observing that the minister cannot change the Cabinet decision, it is the Cabinet that can change it. The Congress demanded a debate in the House on why such a decision was taken at the Cabinet.
Congress legislator Narsingha Mishra was of the view, “Once a decision is approved by the Cabinet, the minister cannot change it. Why was such a decision approved first without discussion? The issue should be debated in the House. If this issue can not be discussed, why the state has the Assembly?”
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As per reports, people of the Scheduled Tribes, account for 22 percent of Odisha’s population while five Lok Sabha seats and 32 Assembly seats have been reserved for them. Hence, tribals hold much importance for all the parties.
As the 2024 elections are a few months away, all the political parties do not want to lose the tribal vote bank. According to political observers, the government has been on the back foot due to the Cabinet decision on the tribal land sale which has come as a weapon for the opposition to target the government.
Political analyst Akshay Sahu observed, “The government in the later phase realised that if the Cabinet decision on the tribal land issue is not put on hold, there is a chance of the government losing the tribal vote bank as the elections are coming. The BJP and Congress will take advantage of it, by taking up agitation against it. The government is on the back foot.”