As SC allows OBC quota, Shivraj Singh Chouhan targets Kamal Nath 

OBC leaders say 14% reservation not enough for community constituting over 50% of Madhya Pradesh’s population

Updated - May 19, 2022 02:37 am IST

Published - May 18, 2022 08:51 pm IST - Mandla

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan being congratulated by BJP leaders after Supreme Court allowed OBC Quota in Madhya Pradesh local body election, at State Party Headquarter in Bhopal on May 18, 2022.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan being congratulated by BJP leaders after Supreme Court allowed OBC Quota in Madhya Pradesh local body election, at State Party Headquarter in Bhopal on May 18, 2022. | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision allowing reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in local body elections, although the BJP clearly appeared more upbeat.

Claiming credit for Wednesday’s decision, party workers celebrated at the BJP’s State headquarters in Bhopal, with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan showing up on an unscheduled visit to address them.

The Congress, on the other hand, accused the State government of letting the OBC community down by failing to present the facts properly before the court, terming the 14% reservation for them as inadequate.

Mr. Chouhan, who himself hails from an OBC community and leads a Cabinet that includes nearly a dozen OBC Ministers, was on the offensive as he triumphantly targeted former Chief Minister and State Congress president Kamal Nath for “obstructing the elections and preventing OBCs from getting the benefits of reservations”.

“Congress does not want the welfare of any section of the society, including the OBCs. So when they announced a 27% reservation while in power, there was a stay. When the court put a stay, their advocate general did not appear in the court. They stand exposed. Kamal Nath will have to answer and he cannot hide,” he said triumphantly. Earlier, Mr. Chouhan had described the verdict as historical and overwhelming.

In a tweet in Hindi, Mr. Chouhan also said how his government had made every effort to ensure that such an order was issued: “For triple test, we constituted the OBC Commission. The OBC Commission toured the entire State, went from one village to another, conducted extensive surveys and made a report on the basis of those facts, we submitted that report to the Hon'ble Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Nath said that the verdict had vindicated the Congress’ stand and that the party would continue to push for 27% reservation for OBCs.

Notably, reservation cannot exceed 50%, and 36% seats in these bodies are already reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the State.

"We were saying from the very first day that elections for panchayat and urban bodies should not be held in Madhya Pradesh without OBC reservation, [and] the government should take all necessary steps regarding this," Mr. Nath stated. “We had also fought in the House regarding OBC reservation and after that, the resolution was also passed unanimously that Panchayat and urban body elections should not be held in Madhya Pradesh without OBC reservation. The Shivraj government snatched that right from the OBC category.”

OBC leaders like Lokendra Gurjar, president of OBC SC ST Ekta Manch, said that 14% reservation was not enough for the community that constituted over 50% of the population. “This means we will have far fewer seats than we earlier held in the Nagar Panchayats, Zila Parishads and Gram Panchayats. The government has failed to explain our position and demands clearly and we will protest this. We had announced a Madhya Pradesh bandh on May 21 and we will go ahead with it despite today’s [Wednesday] order,” he said.

Others believe that, for the time being, the CM can see this as a win, though the demands will not die down easily.

“Shivraj Singh Chouhan will certainly emerge stronger in public perception and today’s [Wednesday] verdict will definitely help him enhance his stature within the government and the organisation. This will blunt the Opposition and check murmurs within the party,” Loktantrik Samajwadi Party patron Raghu Thakur, said.

The Bhopal-based Mr. Thakur, who has authored books explaining the nuances of India’s reservation policy, added that the battle on the OBC front was by no means over as there would be pressure on Mr. Chouhan and his government to increase the quota. He cited the example of Tamil Nadu, which provides reservation above the mandated limit of 50%.

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