OBC reservation: Maharashtra can learn from BJP-ruled M.P . 

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis leading a protest by his party MLAs on the
OBC reservation issue in the State Assembly.

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis leading a protest by his party MLAs on the OBC reservation issue in the State Assembly. | Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

The Supreme Court order on implementation of reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Madhya Pradesh has given new hope to Maharashtra government that it’s attempt to convince the apex court court on the issue could bear fruit.

So far, the State has only faced successive failures in securing political reservation for OBCs in local body polls.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said on Thursday, “Madhya Pradesh has shown us the way to protect political reservation for OBCs. We have set up the Banthia Committee to collate empirical data on OBCs. Once the report is received in June, we will present our opinion in the court on the lines of MP government.”

It was in March this year that Maharashtra government had announced that it had formed a committee under former Chief Secretary Jayant Banthia for collating empirical data on the OBCs.<SU>

The political atmosphere in the State has heated up after apex court upheld OBC quota in local polls in Madhya Pradesh, barely a week after striking it down. While the ruling party alliance has termed it a “miracle” and said expressing satisfaction that Maharashtra too will be benefit from the latest SC order, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has termed it as Maha Vikas Aghadi’s failure and demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

“The Supreme Court said that Madhya Pradesh has conducted a mandatory triple test using the empirical data. Though it has not gone into the merits of the report and has kept the option of its scrutiny open, it has allowed OBC quota in local body polls,” said Hari Narke, noted scholar and commentator on OBC-related issues.

He said that the Banthia Committee can collect the village-wise information, as done in Madhya Pradesh, by using the voter’s list.

Mr. Narke pointed out that the Madhya Pradesh government had submitted the ward structure along with OBC reservation, while in Maharashtra the ongoing process is without OBC reservation. “Banthia committee report will be submitted after the Supreme Court vacation ends. By that time the election commission’s ward structure without OBC reservation would be ready. And this can be changed only if court orders. As M.P. already had OBC wards reserved they wouldn’t face any problem. But is it happening in Maharashtra? I don’t see that coordination between the State government and State Election Commission,” he said.

The Opposition BJP is demanding the resignation of Mr. Thackeray for neglecting the issue. “This government has failed on all counts which is harming OBCs in the State. Uddhav Thackeray must take up the responsibility and resign,” said State unit BJP chief Chandrakant Patil. BJP’s OBC face Chandrashekhar Bawankule alleged that the Banthia Committee has been given orders by State government to go slow and not collect block-level information.

In Maharashtra, OBCs include Denotified Tribes ( Vimukta Jati), Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Special Backward Category. The State extended 27% OBC reservation in local civic bodies in 1994. In 2018, Vikas Gawli, a former Zilla Parishad member from Washim district approached the NagpurBench of Bombay High Court and sought a stay on the election process in Washim and Akola districts citing a breach of the 50% reservation mark. The court granted status quo and elections were delayed. Mr. Gawli approached the apex court which passed an interim order directing the SEC to conduct the polls subject to the final order of the said pending petition.<SU>

But Mr. Gawli again filed a petition against the interim order and referred to the 2010 Supreme Court verdict in the case of K. Krishnmurthy and others versus Union of India and others. A five-member Constitution Bench headed by the then Chief Justice K. Balkrishnan while validating the 27% OBC reservation, had said in it’s verdict, “dedicated commissions need to be appointed to conduct a rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of backwardness”. It also observed that, “in the absence of updated empirical data, it is well nigh impossible for the Courts to decide whether the reservations in favour of OBC groups are proportionate or not”. The court also fixed the upper limit of reservation at 50%.

In March 2021, the apex court ruled in favour of Mr. Gawli and said that the provision of Section 12 (2) (c) of Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961, giving 27% reservation to OBCs may be invoked only after complying with the three conditions mentioned above.<SU>An interim report of the State Backward Classes Commission was also rejected stating it was prepared in absence of empirical data. As political parties unanimously decided to not hold elections without OBC quota, the State legislature passed a Bill taking over the procedure to demarcate municipal wards of local civic body.<SU>Despite that, on May 5, the SC directed SEC to notify and declare dates for local body election within two weeks. On May 10, it asked M.P. SEC to announce poll programme without OBC quota, but within a week it modified the order and allowed implementation of the same.

Senior OBC leader and Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said that the court’s decision means it could be implemented across the State. “The only silver lining is that OBC reservation across the country could now be saved using this order,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2022 12:27:24 pm |