September 14, 2021 12:18:12 am
By-elections will be held on October 5 for more than 200 seats in six Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis that were vacated as per the Supreme Court’s March 4 order striking down OBC reservations in local bodies until the state had enough empirical information on OBCs.
The State Election Commission (SEC) on Monday announced the by-election to the vacant seats following a September 9 ruling by the apex court that the state government’s August 11 Covid restrictions were not applicable to the by-election process. The court had also asked the commission to take a decision on completing the remaining stages of by-elections.
The by-polls will be the first elections to be held in the state after the Supreme Court order on March 4 reading down the OBC quota. Elections to these seats had been held earlier subject to the outcome of the petitions challenging the quota that the Supreme Court was then considering.
Aside from ruling that there would be no OBC quota in local bodies until the state gathers empirical data on OBCs, the SC also ordered the immediate vacation of the OBC seats and asked the state poll panel to initiate by-elections for these seats from the general category.
The OBC seats were then converted to general category seats. A draw was held to reserve 50 per cent of the seats for women, but the elections were not held due to the Covid situation in the state.
On June 22, the SEC announced that voting for 70 vacant seats in five Zilla Parishads in Dhule, Nandurbar, Akola, Washim and Nagpur, and 130 seats in the 33 Panchayat Samitis in their jurisdiction would be held on July 19. However, the commission did not announce the by-elections for 15 vacant seats of Palghar Zilla Parishad and 14 seats of their Panchayat Samitis as the district was in level-3 of the state’s Covid restrictions.
Subsequently, the state filed a petition against it seeking deferment of polls citing Covid and the apex court asked the SEC on July 6 to take a decision on this on its own. Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte also wrote a letter, on the instructions of the MVA government, to the SEC requesting deferment of the by-elections citing the Covid situation.
Following the SC order of July 6 and the state’s request, the SEC on July 9 announced that it was staying the by-election “at the stage where it is today”, stating that it would announce the completion of the remaining stages of the by-elections after improvement in the Covid situation.
Sources from the SEC said that in continuation with the March 4 order and subsequent petitions, the commission had submitted a report on the deferment of the by-polls to the SC. In its hearing on September 9, the apex court ruled that the state government’s Covid restrictions issued on August 11 are not applicable to the by-election process and also asked the commission to take a decision on completing the remaining stages of by-elections.
On Monday, the SEC announced the by-election for the 85 Zilla Parishad seats and 144 Panchayat Samiti seats in six Zilla Parishad such as Dhule, Nandurbar, Akola, Washim, Nagpur and Palghar and Panchayat Samitis in it.
State Election Commissioner U P S Madan announced that voting for the five Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samitis in its jurisdiction would be held on October 5. The nominations for these local bodies were filed and the election schedule was stayed after completion of the scrutiny of the candidates’ nominations. “Now, the list of valid nominations of the candidates will be published on September 21 and voting will take place on October 5. The results will be announced on October 6,” said Madan.
He further said that the by-election programme for the Palghar Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samitis in it not announced earlier due to the Covid situation in the district will also be held.
Hari Narke, a scholar on the OBC reservation, said these seats have been lost as the government did not act seriously on it in the past six months. “After the March 4 order of the SC, the state government should have either obtained empirical data or gathered it from the state backward classes commission. Now, it should take serious note of it and work on a war footing to gather the empirical data. Else, the OBC seats in all future elections of municipal corporations and zilla parishads will be lost,” said Narke.
Recently, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held two meetings with leaders of all political parties to resolve the issue. In its last meeting, all the parties agreed that empirical data for OBC reservation should be prepared at the earliest.
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