BHUBANESWAR: Ahead of the panchayat election, politics over reservation of seats for the other backward classes (OBCs) has come to the fore with the three principal political parties claiming to have fielded more than 48 per cent candidates belonging to the category.
There has been no official reservation of candidates for the OBCs as State government is yet to complete the triple test as enunciated by the Supreme Court. The government has also not approached the Supreme Court in this regard. Out of the 853 zilla parishad (ZP) seats, 464 are unreserved.
Government chief whip and senior BJD leader Pramila Mallick claimed that the BJD has fielded 406 OBC candidates in the unreserved seats which comes to around 48 per cent of the total number of seats. Sources in the party said that BJD has kept its promise to field more than 40 percent OBC candidates in ZP seats during the panchayat election.
On the other hand, the BJP claimed that the party has fielded OBC candidates in 50 per cent (427 candidates) of the 853 ZP seats, which is more than the BJD. “This shows our party’s commitment towards them”, said president of the BJP OBC Morcha Surath Biswal.
BJP general secretary Golak Mohapatra targeted the BJD and asked that a list of OBC candidates fielded by different political parties should be prepared to find out the truth behind the ruling party’s claim. Congress also claimed to have fielded more than 50 per cent OBC candidates in the unreserved seats. Party spokesperson Manoj Mohapatra said that after reservation of 38.5 per cent seats for SCs and STs, Congress has given four to five per cent seats to general candidates. This comes to around 420 to 430 seats for the OBCs, he added.
Meanwhile, presence of 298 Independent candidates in ZP seats mostly in the coastal districts of the State has put the BJD in a very difficult situation. Though district-wise list of Independent candidates is yet to be released by the State Election Commission (SEC), BJD sources admitted that around 270 to 280 are rebel candidates of the ruling party. BJD insiders maintained that all measures taken to persuade them to withdraw their candidature failed.
Both the BJP and Congress, however, claimed that they do not have problem of rebel candidates. In fact, the Opposition political parties failed to give candidates in all the seats. While BJP could not field candidates in four ZP zones, there are no Congress nominees in 16 zones.