BJD reiterates demand for caste-based census, attacks BJP for its ‘silence’

The Biju Janata Dal plans to hit the streets to garner people’s support on the issue.

Reiterating its demand for conducting caste-based census and removal of 50% ceiling on reservation, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Tuesday said the party would hit the streets to garner people’s support on the issue.

The regional party also criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for remaining silent on the issue at a time when its alliance partners in the National Democratic Alliance were demanding caste-based census.

“In the absence of reliable and authentic data about the exact numbers of Socially and Educationally Backward Class or Other Backward Class population, focused programme for welfare of the backward caste cannot be formulated. The federal system and legal concerns have come in the way of the State government to address the issue,” said Ranendra Pratap Swain, senior BJD leader and Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister.

“After the proposal for caste-based census was rejected by the Centre, Odisha Cabinet had given its nod for estimation of socially and educationally backward class population on January 11 last year. Subsequently, an OBC Commission was constituted,” Mr. Swain said.

A Parliamentary-party delegation of the BJD had also met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and given a memorandum in support of caste census.

“Odisha cannot be compared with any other State. According to the demographic composition of Odisha, the tribal and scheduled caste population will come to 40% while OBC population is 54%. About 94% of Odisha population belongs to weaker section, including OBC. So reservation cannot be capped at 50%,” the Minister said.

“The demand for caste-based census and removal of 50% ceiling on reservation are intertwined. They are two sides of one coin. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who first raised the issue, is getting support from across party lines in the country,” he said.

Mr. Swain observed that “even Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar is vehemently raising the demand for caste census. Recently, a 10-member deligation met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press for the demand. They said caste-based census and removing constitutional bottleneck on 50% ceiling come under Centre’s jurisdiction.”

Similarly, State Agriculture Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo said, “the BJP is not opening its mouth on the issue. The silence is deafening. We call upon our BJP friends to support us on caste-based census as well as lifting of 50% ceiling on reservation.”

If these demands were ignored, the BJD would not be left with any option but to hit the streets, said Mr. Sahoo.

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