BJD to field 40% backward class candidates in local body polls

Opposition had faulted BJD over denial of quota

After the Orissa High Court directed the State government to rework the draft notification on reservation to offices of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members upon finding that the Supreme Court guidelines were not followed, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Saturday announced that 40% of its candidates in the upcoming panchayat and civic body polls would be from the backward classes.

The ruling BJD had come under sharp criticism of the Opposition parties after the draft notification providing reservation in panchayat and urban body polls to backward class communities could not stand the scrutiny of Orissa HC.

“In the BJD executive committee meeting, the issue of providing reservation to backward classes was discussed in detail. Subsequently, BJD organisational secretary Pranab Prakash Das proposed that 40% of its candidates in the panchayat and urban body polls be from the backward classes. BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik granted his approval to the proposal,” said the party in a statement here on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Judge A. K. Mohapatra cited the case of Rahul Ramesh Wagh v. State of Maharashtra, in which the Supreme Court had held that it was mandatory for a ‘triple test’ to be fulfilled prior to making reservation for backward class citizen (BCC).

First, it was mandatory to set up a dedicated commission to conduct “contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of backwardness qua local bodies within the State”.

The second requirement was “to specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body-wise in light of the recommendations of the Commission, so as not to fall foul of overbreadth.”

The third requirement was that such reservation in any event should not exceed the aggregate of 50% of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs, STs and OBCs taken together.

“Although there is a commission set up by Odisha in fulfilment of the first of the triple tests, the second test of the commission making recommendations specifying the percentage of reservation to be made, after collecting data, is not fulfilled as on date,” says the Orissa HC’s order.

The principal Opposition BJP came down heavily on the BJD saying it could not present its case properly before the High Court, leading to a scenario where there would be no reservation for backward classes.

“The BJD government was not sincere in its approach for reservation for backward classes. The Supreme Court had mentioned about the triple test long ago. The government delayed constituting the OBC commission. What has the OBC commission done in the past two years? No decision has been taken on identifying backward classes in the State,” said Surath Biswal, president of the BJP’s OBC cell.

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