Mumbai: Following the Supreme Court’s staying of the Ordinance providing 27 per cent quota for OBCs in local bodies, the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi partners -- the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress -- fear a complete washout in the ensuing local body elections, as they expect OBCs to boycott them or wholeheartedly support the BJP.
The OBCs constitute 54 per cent of the population and if 73 per cent of the OBCs from non-OBC seats vote against the MVA and for the BJP, it will be another body blow. In a serious bid to thwart rout in the upcoming polls to the zilla parishads, nagar panchayats, municipal corporations and panchayat samitis slated for December 21, on Wednesday, the state government will file an application with a plea to stay these elections. Thereafter, it will also file an intervention plea to be taken up on December 13 during hearing on a petition challenging the state government’s Ordinance to provide 27 per cent reservation to OBCs in local bodies.
The government swung into action after the apex court on Monday stayed its Ordinance, saying that the State Election Commission (SEC) could not be permitted to proceed with the election programme in respect of the OBC reservation category. The last date for filing nominations for the local body poll was December 7.
In view of the apex court’s order, the SEC on Tuesday stayed the local body polls to all the seats that were reserved for the OBCs. Elections to 105 nagar panchayats, Bhandara and Gondia zilla parishads and panchayat samitis in their jurisdiction and to 4,554 gram panchayats are slated for December 21. However, the SEC has clarified that the polling in non-OBC seats in these local bodies will take place as scheduled.
According to the SEC, the polling in seats reserved for OBCs will not be held in 23 of the total 105 seats in Bhandara and Gondia zilla parishads, 45 of the total 210 seats in 15 panchayat samitis under the jurisdiction of Bhandara and Gondia and 344 of the total 1,802 seats in 106 nagar panchayats.
However, the MVA insisted that these elections should be stayed, as the OBCs might oppose it en masse and vote for the BJP. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat and Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde held marathon discussions and also spoke with the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who is recovering from spine surgery, and with the advocate general. Ultimately, it was decided to file an application on Wednesday and later, an intervention plea to be taken up during the hearing on December 13 in the apex court.
Veteran NCP minister and Samata Parishad founder Chhagan Bhujbal said the Supreme Court stay would lead to denying political rights to 54 per cent of the population in the state.
“The core issue is, can we deprive 54 per cent of the population of their political rights in a democratic system? Here, the question is neither about the merit nor the technicalities of the case related to the OBC quota. The real alarming issue is, can we hold local body polls without OBC reservations? Will that not amount to injustice against the sizable OBC population?” he asked.
Bhujbal spoke to the DMK MP and senior counsel P Wilson to plead the case in the apex court. Senior NCP leader Praful Patel spoke to the former attorney general, Mukul Rohatgi, to take up the brief.
Bhujbal said he would fly to Delhi after Wednesday’s cabinet sitting, to brief lawyers. “We will appeal to the court to take into consideration all socio-political aspects. At this moment, what is necessary is to facilitate local body polls by accommodating OBC reservations. The nitty-gritties related to legal and technical aspects in the matter can be addressed later,” he opined.
Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope, in a letter to CM Thackeray appealed for the postponement of the upcoming elections slated for December 21.