Fearing return of OBC, MVA heat in local polls, Shinde-BJP gov’t calls for review of SC order

The announcement by the Eknath Shinde-BJP government closely follows the Supreme Court Thursday order – warning the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) for contempt action if it renotifies the electoral process regarding 367 local bodies to provide 27% Other Backward Class Reservation (OBC) therein – that it A reportedly moving review petition to the top court betrays the ruling alliance’s apprehension of a political backlash over the issue. The announcement was made by Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP official Devendra Fadnavis.

SEC sources said the panel has yet to receive the Supreme Court order based on which it will decide its next course of action.

A political row has been raging in Maharashtra for more than two years over the issue of OBC booking in local body polls. When in opposition, the BJP had accused the former Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of allegedly working against the interests of OBCs by not following the “triple test” ordered by the Supreme Court to guarantee 27% OBC. quota in local state bodies.

The BJP, which claims to have the support of much of the OBCs, had even accused the MVA – a coalition of the Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress – of allegedly trying to end the reservation of the CBO. in urban and rural local authorities. The Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA had, in turn, accused the BJP-led central government of not sharing empirical data on OBCs in Maharashtra.

During the tenure of the MVA government, the Maharashtra Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling for an OBC census in the state.

In March 2022, when the Supreme Court rejected the interim report of the Backward Classes Commission of Maharashtra, the State Assembly even passed a resolution in favor of not holding elections in the state until that the OBC reserve is restored.

On July 9, the Banthia Commission – a dedicated panel set up by the MVA government in March 2022 to gather empirical data on state OBCs – submitted its report to the Shinde-BJP government, recommending 27% OBC reservation in states. local organizations. On July 20, the Supreme Court accepted the Banthia panel’s report and allowed a 27% OBC quota in future local body polls, resolving a protracted stalemate over the issue. In the wake of this order, the OBC reservation will now come into effect in local state bodies based on the OBC population therein. According to the high court order, however, it must be ensured that the total quotas, including those for Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and OBCs, do not exceed 50% of the number total number of seats in local constituencies. body.

In this context, the supreme court’s decision that the new policy providing for a 27% reserve of the OBC will not apply to the 367 local bodies where the electoral process had already started, is expected to harm the ruling alliance politically. nascent. “The government is obliged to appeal. When this government claimed victory by securing the OBC reservation, an election will be held without it. It harms the optics of this government,” said a source working with the government.

The ruling camp, particularly the BJP, fears that the development will deal a blow to its OBC vote bank in these local bodies across the state. None of the many OBC leaders, which the BJP had deployed to target the MVA on the issue earlier, have commented since the Supreme Court’s last order, leaving the saffron party to line up Fadnavis to make a statement.

“All local bodies in Maharashtra except these (367) municipal bodies have an OBC reservation following the July 20 Supreme Court ruling. We find it strange that the court gave this order because during its last hearing itself, he had come out in favor of the postponement of the local polls. Since no notification on the new dates of the poll has been issued, the previous one announcing the postponement of the poll is valid. The State will present this position in court,” Fadnavis said.

Sensing an opportunity ahead of local body polls, the opposition MVA slammed the government, asking Chief Minister Shinde and Fadnavis to take up the OBC reserve among other important issues with the Center instead of just discussing expansion. of their cabinet with the BJP leadership during their frequent trips to Delhi.

Aiming at the Shinde-Fadnavis government, Maharashtra NCP Chairman Jayant Patil said: “The two leaders are visiting Delhi trying to appease the rebels. At the same time, a section of the BJP is unhappy with the assignment of Fadnavis to the post of deputy CM. In all of this, the government has no time to focus on the issue of OBC reservations which resulted in the Supreme Court’s verdict on Thursday.

State Congress Speaker Nana Patole said the Shinde-Fadnavis waiver should focus on a legal battle to overturn the supreme court’s decision instead of worrying about the stability of their government. “Congress is of the view that no election should take place without a reservation from the OBC,” he asserted.

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