Local body elections announced by the State Election Commission (SEC) in 92 nagar parishads and four nagar panchayats across 17 districts in Maharashtra are likely to be deferred with all political parties unanimously stating that the polls should not take place without OBC reservation.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday 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. “We are going to request the State Election Commission to defer the polls as the situation is not conducive following floods in several parts of Maharashtra,” Shinde said, adding, “We (Shinde and Fadnavis) met Tushar Mehta in Delhi. We requested him to represent the state in the OBC matter.”
The SEC had announced the local body polls on Friday as per which the election is set to take place on August 18 and the results will be declared on August 19. Congress, NCP and BJP leaders have taken strong objection to conducting the elections without the OBC quota. National BJP secretary Pankaja Munde said, “I don’t think nagar parishad and nagar panchayat elections should take place without OBC quota.”
Last year, the Supreme Court had struck down the OBC reservation in 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.
Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal said, “Any election without enforcing the OBC quota would amount to a grave injustice to OBCs.” The BJP-led coalition at the Centre and in the state should ensure that OBC reservation is restored at the earliest as done in neighbouring state Madhya Pradesh. Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil observed, “We urge the state government to disallow elections until the OBC quota is restored.”
Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Nana Patole said, “The newly elected BJP-Shinde camp coalition government should intervene and ensure there are no elections without OBC quota.” Patole blamed the BJP-led central government for not doing enough to restore the OBC quota in the state.
“The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre failed to furnish OBC data. Had they helped in providing the data, it would have helped retain the OBC quota in local bodies, ” Patole said, arguing, “At least now the state government should initiate steps to expedite the process of OBC quota in local bodies. Until then, they should not allow any elections.”
Earlier, senior BJP general secretary Chandrashekhar Bawankule said, “The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) should explain why it failed to retain the OBC quota in local bodies. In the last 2.5 years of MVA rule, they did nothing to save or restore the OBC quota.” He added that the Congress has the habit of pointing fingers at the Centre to cover up its own mistakes.
As per the SEC, nagar parishad polls will take place in Jalgaon, Solapur, Jalna, Pune, Beed, Osmanabad, Nandurbar, Aurangabad, Amravati, Latur, Buldhana, Nashik, Dhule, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Ahmednagar districts. Four nagar panchayat polls are also set to take place in the districts of Pune, Ahmednagar and Solapur. The code of conduct will come into force in these districts from July 20.