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Suryakant Jena

A political wrangle has erupted in Odisha over allegations  of inadequate representation to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the reservation of seats for the upcoming three-tier Panchayat elections. 

Reports collated from various places in Bhadrak, Bargarh, and from Malkangiri to Mayurbhanj, voices of dissent against neglect to OBCs reservations in the draft list for Zilla Parishad posts have warmed the State politics. 

As per the draft lists published from all the 30 districts, there has not been any reservation for OBCs in Zilla Parishad member posts in six districts namely Sambalpur, Nuapada, Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Jharsuguda and Gajapati.  

This apart, there is just a single reserved seat for Zilla Parishad member post in each of the three districts- Malkangiri, Boudh and Deogarh. 
In the three big districts of Cuttack, Ganjam and Mayurbhanj, while the total number of seats is more than 50, the number of seats reserved for backward classes has touched double digits.

Abani Mahanta, a member of Baripada OBC Mancha, an outfit fighting for the rights of the backward classes,  said that Odisha government must implement the 27% quota guidelines for the OBCs as has been decreed by the Supreme Court of India.

"If the government cannot ensure that, then we would urge it to take away our rights of universal adult franchise," rued Mahanta.

Similarly, Madhav Pandey, a local resident belonging to OBC has condemned the move by the government.  "Do OBCs have no aspirations, representations in society ? I am really shocked at the development," said Pandey.

Meanwhile, the scenario has spurred the Opposition political parties to target the ruling BJD. 

Congress MLA Suresh Routray termed the issue as neglect and an insult to the backward classes. 

BJP too has lambasted the BJD and warned to take legal course if the draft lists are not revised to give adequate representations to the OBCs.

Surath Biswal, President of BJP OBC Morcha said backward classes are being deprived of their Constitutional rights. "In the last five urban and Panchayat body polls, OBCs were given 27% quota. So we don't understand why they were not given enough representations this time around," said Biswal.

However, the Biju Janata Dal has assured that even though adequate reservations could not be provisioned for the OBCs at the governmental level, it will ensure 27% quota for the backward classes at the party level as per the promises laid out by the BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

According to the calendar of events laid out for reservation of seats, the final lists will be released to the State Election Commission after due disposal of claims and objections by the district administrative heads. 

The State government has been directed to finish the entire process of finalising reservations by October 30. The process for preparation of voter list will be initiated after finalization of the reservation process.

Odisha has a total of 853 Zilla Parishad zones and 6800 Panchayats.

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