Bhubaneswar: It seems that both the ruling-BJD and Congress have already locked horns ahead of the 2019 elections to grab the 25 seats reserved for the SC category in the State Legislature. While the BJD today launched a 12-hour relay hunger strike in front of the Raj Bhavan in Bhubaneswar protesting Center's change in funding pattern for post-Matric scholarships for SC students, Congress announced that it will hold a rally for SC people on November 27.

The ruling-BJD held the relay hunger strike from 8 AM to 8 PM which was attended by ministers, MLAs and senior leaders of the party. They targeted the Centre for modifying the post-matric scholarship norms and alleged it would affect nearly 2 lakh tribal students in the State. Besides, they stated that the State government is bearing an additional financial burden of around Rs 500 crore.

It is pertinent to mention that the Centre has reduced the post-matric scholarship funds for Schedule Caste (SC) students. Until 2016-17, the Centre was providing 90 percent of funds while the state was bearing the remaining 10 percent. However, the Centre has revised the mechanism, wherein the State now has to bear 80 percent of the total expenditure.

"The Centre should change its anti-dalit attitude. Protesting the decision we launched a hunger strike in front of Raj Bhavan. Apart from this, the CM has already urged the Centre to provide the scholarship in 90:10 ratio," said Ramesh Majhi, SC and ST Welfare Minister.

The ruling-party leaders also submitted a memorandum to Governor Ganeshi Lal to draw his attention to the matter.

On the other hand, Congress has also geared up to garner support from the SC and ST category. The party will hold a rally on November 27 which will be attended by former Lok Sabha Speaker, Meera Kumari and Dalit rights campaigner Jignesh Mevani.

"Both the Centre and the State government are adopting an anti-dalit attitude and we are going to organise a rally protesting the same," said Bibhu Prasad Tarai, chairperson of the Odisha Congress SC Cell.

Talks are doing rounds in the political circle that both the parties are trying to garner votes for 25 reserved Assembly constituencies and three Lok Sabha seats.

BJP also stated that such steps of BJD and Congress are political ploys.

"The parliamentarians of the ruling-BJD are not raking up the issue in Lok Sabha. People of Odisha people will not be affected by these politically-motivated campaigns," said Pradip Purohit, BJP MLA.

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