September 25, 2021 2:30:56 am
The Centre’s affidavit in the Supreme Court ruling out a caste census and saying that collecting data on any castes other than Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) was a “conscious policy decision”, has put the BJP on the backfoot in Maharashtra.
The state BJP had decided to make the demand for OBC reservation in local bodies its main plank in the upcoming local bodies elections, projecting the Supreme Court decision against it in March as a failure of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to present the case properly.
With the BJP-led government at the Centre taking a clear stand against enumeration of any castes other than SC and ST, arguing that any such information gathering process could jeopardise the integrity of the census process, the state BJP will need to find some other cause.
Former chief minister and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis, still believes he can lay the blame at the state government’s door.
“From the very beginning, I had maintained that OBC reservation in local bodies relates to the state government. It cannot come under the Centre’s domain. The Supreme Court never scrapped OBC reservation in local bodies. It held that the reservation cannot exceed the aggregate 50 per cent of the total seats reserved in favour of SC, ST and OBCs taken together. If the state government completes the triple test process, OBC reservation can be restored,” Fadnavis said.
The “triple test” process has the following elements – set up a Backward Classes Commission, compile empirical data and establish backwardness of the castes to be included as well as accommodate the quota within 50 per cent ceiling on reservations.
“The quantification can be done based on sample. So, here census is not required. Instead of doing this, the state government has put the entire responsibility on the Centre,” said Fadnavis.
“Moreover, how could the Centre provide empirical data? It is for the state government to conduct the exercise,” he added.
Meanwhile, the state Cabinet has already issued an ordinance approved by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on OBC reservation in local bodies within the 50 per cent ceiling.
Senior OBC leader and Cabinet Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said, “The Centre does not want to take any responsibility on OBC reservation. We had urged it to share with the state OBC data based on the 2011 population caste census. Another request was that the Centre should conduct OBC census in the ongoing population census of 2022. Both demands were turned down in court.” “This is a big setback to the OBC cause. Had the Centre positively considered, OBC reservation would have been resolved,” he added.
On Thursday, the Union government also told the Supreme Court that caste census conducted in 2011 was unusable for any official purpose due to grave inaccuracies in its data.
According to the Centre, in context of Maharashtra, the 2011 caste census had recorded more than 42,8000 castes. But Maharashtra has identified only 494 castes, including Scs and STs.
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