A day after Patna High Court observed that quotas in the municipal body polls were “illegal” in Bihar, the ruling party Janata Dal(U) on Wednesday said that fresh municipal polls in the State would now be held only after “reservations for Other Backward Classes and Extremely Backward Classes, set aside by the court, were restored”.
“There is no illegality in the quotas. They were introduced by the Nitish Kumar Government for Panchayats in 2006 and for urban local bodies, a year later. Now fresh municipal body polls will be held in the State only after quotas are restored,” said JD(U) president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh and party’s parliamentary board chairman Upendra Kushwaha.
They also suspected role of the BJP in the issue. “We suspect the BJP’s hand in it. The party and its parent body RSS have always opposed quotas. And if we check the background of the petitioners who had challenged reservations in urban local bodies their link with the BJP will come to the fore. Several BJP leaders even had celebrated the Patna HC order privately. This can be verified,” they alleged while addressing presspersons.
The JD(U) had snapped its ties with the BJP in August this year to form Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) Government in the State along with Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress, and others.
Earlier, following the Patna High Court order, the State Election Commission had deferred the urban local bodies elections in the State saying fresh dates will be announced in due course. The polls were scheduled to be held in two phases on October 10 and October 20 and the results were to be announced on October 12 and 22 respectively. According to State Election Commission altogether 1.14 crore voters were to exercise their franchise in the poll.
Patna High Court’s order
Earlier, while hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the reservation system in urban local bodies elections in the State on September 4, a Division Bench of the Patna High Court comprising chief justice Sanjay Karol and justice S. Kumar declared reservation of seats for OBC and EBC in the municipal bodies poll “illegal” and ordered that polls be held only after treating such seats as those of “general category”.
“The State of Bihar has not undertaken any exercise by which the criteria adopted for providing reservations under socio-economic / educational services have been adopted for the purpose of ensuring electoral representation of Other Backward Classes, including Extremely Backward Classes,” the court said.
The court also advised the State government that it should “consider enacting a comprehensive legislation pertaining to reservations in elections to local bodies, urban or rural, to bring the State seamlessly in line with the directions issued by the Supreme Court”.
It further pointed out that commissions formed in the State under the Backward Classes Act and the Commissions for Extremely Backward Classes were for purposes independent and distinct from ascertaining political backwardness. In its 86-page order, the Patna High Court also had made some sharp observations on the State Election Commission asking it “review its functioning as an autonomous and independent body, not bound by the dictates of the Government of Bihar”.
However, both the JD(U) leaders Mr. Singh and Mr. Kushwaha said that “the party will fully support the government in whatever measures it takes for restoration of quotas”. “We also propose to hold agitations, may be by next week, across all 38 districts of the State to expose the BJP’s double standard”, they said.
Earlier, Mr. Kushwaha, in a series of tweets had termed the Patna HC order as “unfortunate” and one which stemmed from deep conspiracy of the Centre and the BJP”.
JD(U) leader and Minister of education and parliamentary affairs Vijay Kumar Choudhary, though, said that the government would “move to Supreme Court against the Patna High Court order”. RJD leader and Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav too had said that the BJP has always opposed reservations.
The BJP has blamed the Nitish Kumar Government for the “legal wrangle” alleging that his “government did not complete formalities like setting up an independent commission for recommending quotas for electoral purposes”.
“Nitish Kumar owes an answer to the people as to why he began the process for municipal poll without any preparations. Why did he not set up an independent commission for ascertaining the imperativeness of reservation so that the quotas could withstand judicial scrutiny? He is to be blamed for the humiliation of OBCs and EBCs”, said State BJP spokesperson and national general secretary of OBC morcha, Nikhil Anand.