The Supreme Court on Monday extended stay on the Gujarat local body elections till the next hearing on November 24, even as the state government sought 10 days to file reply to an earlier notice questioning the multi-councillor ward system.
The development further increased the possibility of administrator rule in six municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar.
Nearly 300 local bodies — corporations, district panchayats, taluka panchayats and nagarpalikas — were to go for polls from October. District and taluka panchayats, however, follow the one ward, one member system.
“The Gujarat government did not file reply to notice within 15 days after it was issued on September 4. The final hearing now has been set for November 24 . The government has asked for further time to file a reply,” said Narendra Ravat, Congress leader from Vadodara. Four residents of Vadodara, including Samantsinh Parmar on behalf of Ravat, had moved the SC questioning the multi-member system in corporations and nagarpalikas.
“The hearing now will be on November 24,” said a top official from the legal department. Additional Solicitor General Hemantika Wahi refused to comment when asked whether the government has sought 10 days to file reply and submit other documents.
Gujarat, so far, has followed the three-member per ward system. However, it was changed to the one ward, four councillors system to implement 50 per cent reservation for women in the local bodies. The petitioners have argued in the court that the multi-member system, unique to the state, was a violation of fundamental rights of reservation and representation.
By the last week of October, the five-year term of elected body at Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation would end. By December, term for the rest of the municipal corporations would also end.
“The law will take its own course and as part of process administrator rule may come. While BJP was all set for elections, it is Congress that moved the SC,” said BJP spokesperson I K Jadeja .
BJP too, in wake of the Patidar agitation for OBC quota, has been weighing political equations afresh. The fact that the government neither filed review petition against stay nor gave reply to the notice indicated it was not in a hurry to go for the polls.
Congress, however, is pushing for the local body elections. Calling delay in the panchayat elections as undemocratic, the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee submitted a representation to the state election commission at Gandhinagar. It requested the poll panel hold the elections as scheduled.
Referring to the SC stay on the municipal elections, the representation stated that there was no mention of the panchayat elections in the order and, so the polls should be conducted in its normal course. As per the normal schedule, panchayat elections would be due in October-November.
“The BJP government is blaming Congress for delaying the local body elections, but now we have given it in writing to the poll panel requesting to hold the panchayat elections without any delay. The SC stay is categorically for the municipal elections and not panchayat so there is no question of,” said GPCC general secretary Nishit Vyas.