The Biju Janata Dal’s newfound enthusiasm and demand for a caste-based census followed up with the announcement that the party will provide tickets to 27 percent OBC candidates in the ensuing panchayat elections is diametrically opposite to the avowed principles and philosophy of late Biju Patnaik after whom the party has been named.
At the peak of the Mandal Commission report related controversy in the nineties, Biju Patnaik had vehemently opposed the report and even vented his anger at party (the then Janata Dal) meetings.
The poor have no caste, he had pronounced while adding that the ‘Mandal brigade’ will be countered by the ‘Kamandal Brigade’, (implicitly referring to the BJP), and the disruption could cost the government at the centre.
He and a few of the senior colleagues here had detested the move of the VP Singh government pointing out that Odisha like few other eastern India states -West Bengal, Assam has historically been above caste and religion-based politics.
Odisha was in flames during the anti-Mandal agitation with firebrand student Congress leader late Lulu Mahapatra putting the Biju Patnaik government in deep trouble. The government of the day tried to douse the flames by booking Mahapatra under NSA. At his heart, Biju Patnaik, the tall secular democrat that he was, had always despised caste and religion-based politics.
Competitive politics or populism at the expense of the socioeconomic and cultural fabric of Odisha is going to be destructive, lamented a former ministerial colleague of Biju Patnaik while regretting that the BJD was getting unnecessarily drawn into such a brand of politics. Affirmative action purely on economic criteria is what is required, he added.
The Biju Janata Dal led by Naveen Patnaik was formed to ‘fulfil the dreams of Biju Patnaik’.
The legendary leader had promoted and pioneered empowerment and reservation for women. To that extent, CM Naveen Patnaik has also taken the lead. On Friday, BJD Ministers said pending central legislation, CM Naveen Patnaik had allotted 33 percent seats to women in the parliament election and again he has shown the way by promising a 27 percent quota of seats to OBC in the next panchayat elections in Odisha. Other political parties should learn from the CM, they said.
BJD MPs had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and submitted a memorandum demanding a caste-based census a few days ago. Reliable sources said Shah was disinclined to any such move.