OBC Quota Issue a Boulder on Road to Civic Polls as CM Shinde, Parties Seek to Push Date

With elections to the 236-member Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporaiton (BMC) nearing, parties are reluctantly gearing up for the polls amid qualms over SC disallowing OBC quota for candidates. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on July 9 said that he was going to request the State Election Commission (SEC) to defer elections owing to floods.

Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and requested him to represent the state’s case in the Supreme Court to restore OBC reservation in local body polls.

The SEC had announced the local body polls to be conducted on August 18 in Pune, Sangli, Solapur, Kolhapur, Nashik, Dhule, Nandurbar, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Jalna, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur, Amravati and Buldhana districts, and the results to be declared the next day. However, Congress, NCP and BJP leaders have taken strong objection to conducting the elections without the OBC quota.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the suggestions of the commission appointed by the Maharashtra government on grant of OBC reservation in local bodies polls cannot be accommodated for the areas for which the election programme has already been notified. The bench said it will not stop the poll process till it reaches its logical end and interfere only where it has not commenced.

OBC quota – What the Supreme Court has said

The top court on March 3 said it is “not possible” to permit any authority to act upon the recommendation made in the interim report of the state Backward Classes Commission, which has said that up to 27 per cent reservation can be granted to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the local bodies in Maharashtra, subject to the condition that the total quota shall not exceed 50 per cent limit.

In December last year, the top court had directed the SEC of Maharashtra to notify 27 per cent of seats in the local body, which were reserved for the OBCs, as general seats so that the poll process can be taken forward.

On January 19, the top court had directed the state government to submit data on OBCs to the commission to examine its correctness and make recommendations on their representation in elections for the local bodies.

The apex court directed the state government to conform to the triple test which entailed the constitution of a backward classes commission, gathering empirical data and ensuring that the total reservation does not cross the 50 per cent ceiling. Since the conditions remain unfulfilled, the process of restoring the OBC quota has been stalled.

‘Don’t wait for alliance, gear up for polls’: NCP’s Sharad Pawar

The Nationalist Congress Party, which lost power in Maharashtra last month, wants to strengthen itself in such a way in Mumbai that it is able to field candidates in all the 236 wards of the city civic body in the upcoming polls, its state president Jayant Patil said on Wednesday.

Addressing a meeting of the party’s Mumbai unit, NCP president Sharad Pawar gave a call to strengthen the organization in the metropolis, where it has only some pockets of influence, in view of the civic polls.

The party has also decided to give 27 per cent seats to candidates from the OBC community. “No provision for OBC reservation has been made in elections to these civic bodies as a related case is pending before the Supreme Court.Since it is important that the OBC community gets justice, the NCP has decided to give 27 per cent of the total seats in the local body polls to the candidates of the community,” Patil tweeted.

Uddhav Thackeray in a pickle

In a fresh setback to Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena ahead of the crucial BMC polls, 66 corporators from Thane have joined the Eknath Shinde camp that has been claiming the legacy of party founder Balasaheb Thackeray and the bow and arrow party symbol.

The Shinde-led Sena faction has claimed to be carrying forward the legacy Bal Thackeray by getting out of the “unnatural” alliance with the Congress and NCP.
Thackeray, as per media reports, in a meeting conducted in Matoshree said that many zonal heads could be replaced with party loyalists ahead of the polls.

Congress opposes elections until OBC quota allowed

State Congress chief Nana Patole alleged that then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Union government-led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi were responsible for Other Backward Classes losing political quota in local body elections.

“There should be no elections until the reservation is restored,” he demanded.

“Congress is firm on its demand to put off any elections until the Supreme Court restores the OBC reservations. The BJP is now in power in Maharashtra. It should follow up the issue with the Union government,” he added.

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