MUMBAI: In the clamour for the restoration of quota scrapped by the Supreme Court, the Maharashtra Cabinet on Wednesday decided to bring an ordinance to provide OBC reservation in the upcoming by-elections to 6 zilla parishads and panchayat samitis slated for October 5, but without crossing the 50 per cent cap.
The ordinance will be issued soon on the lines of the one in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and other states.
Minister of Food and Civil Supply and Samata Parishad Founder Chhagan Bhujbal said, ''The cabinet has decided to issue an ordinance which will offer reservation to OBCs in the upcoming by-elections. It will be based on (OBC) population in the constituency where by-polls are scheduled. It will also be applicable to elections in other local and civic bodies, including the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, which is scheduled to elect new corporators early 2022.’’
Bhujbal said it was true that in some districts, the reservation will come down by 10 to 12 per cent, but the ordinance will protect the electoral quota for almost 90 per cent. He informed that the government has held two rounds of discussions with the leaders of opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar in this respect.
The Supreme Court in March this year had quashed the OBC quota in five zilla parishads citing non-availability of empirical data to substantiate the reservation percentage. The apex court had further observed that the total reservation should not exceed 50 per cent. OBCs had 27 per cent reservation in electoral wards of municipal bodies and zilla parishads (district councils).
“We will not cross the 50 per cent cap. Hence we are giving up a portion of reservation in some areas to keep our electoral quota under the 50 per cent cap,” said Bhujbal. He further noted, “Instead of losing the entire quota, the cabinet decided to give up a portion of it and thereby maintain the rest. The state will request the Union government to share the empirical data with it on OBC population during the ensuing hearing in the apex court on September 23.’’
Bhujbal contended that OBC candidates should be fielded in seats reserved for OBCs. ‘’No matter what happens in the state, we will not go beyond the 50 per cent limit,’’ he said.
Fadnavis said, ''Better late than never, it is a good decision to bring an ordinance.’’ ''The government should have done this earlier. If this decision had been taken on December 13, 2019, when the Supreme Court had scrapped the OBC quota, it would have been restored by now,’’ he noted.
Fadnavis, however, said the ordinance would not settle the issue permanently as for the restoration of OBC quota the State Backward Classes Commission needed to compile the empirical data and submit its report. Only thereafter, the state can pass the triple test laid down by the apex court.
On the other hand, Hari Narke, who is an expert on OBC issues, observed that the state government’s move to bring an ordinance will not pass the test of law and it will once again elicit the charge of cheating the OBC community. ‘’The government is not yet proactive in the compilation of empirical data of the OBC community. The ordinance will be applicable for elections to Mumbai, Thane , Pune, Nagpur and other civic bodies slated for February but before that it will be quashed in the court,’’ he opined.