Biju Janata Dal’s new enthusiasm and demand for a caste-based census followed with the announcement that the party will provide tickets to 27% of the CBO candidates in the ensuing panchayat elections is diametrically opposed to the principles and to the avowed philosophy of the late Biju Patnaik after whom the party was named.
At the height of the controversy surrounding the Mandal Commission report in the 1990s, Biju Patnaik vehemently opposed the report and even expressed his anger at party meetings (then Janata Dal).
The poor have no caste, he said 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 dearly at the center.
He and a few of his senior colleagues here had hated the VP Singh government’s decision, pointing out that Odisha, like few other states in eastern India – West Bengal, Assam has historically been in above castes and religious policy.
Odisha was in flames during the anti-Mandal unrest with the late Lulu Mahapatra, student leader of Congress, putting the Biju Patnaik government in serious trouble. The government of the day attempted to put out the flames by reserving Mahapatra under the NSA. Deep down, Biju Patnaik, the great secular democrat that he was, had always despised politics based on caste and religion.
Competitive politics or populism to the detriment of the socio-economic and cultural fabric of Odisha will be destructive, lamented a former ministerial colleague of Biju Patnaik while regretting that the BJD allowed itself to be unnecessarily drawn into such a policy. Positive action only on economic criteria is what is needed, he added.
Biju Janata Dal led by Naveen Patnaik was formed to “make the dreams of Biju Patnaik come true”.
The legendary leader had promoted and launched the empowerment and reservation of women. To this extent, CM Naveen Patnaik also took the lead. On Friday, BJD ministers said that pending central legislation, CM Naveen Patnaik had allocated 33 percent of seats to women in parliamentary elections and once again led the way by pledging a quota of 27 for hundred seats in the CBO in the upcoming panchayat elections in Odisha. Other political parties should learn from the CM, they said.
BJD deputies had met with the Union’s interior minister, Amit Shah, and a few days ago submitted a memorandum demanding a caste-based census. Reliable sources said Shah was reluctant to make such a move.