A DAY after the Supreme Court (SC) asked the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) to announce the election programme of local bodies within two weeks, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on Thursday took a wait-and-watch approach, stating that the SC order was ambiguous and further course of action will be decided after seeing the apex court’s order in the case of Madhya Pradesh.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday convened a high-level meeting of senior ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and NCP minister Chhagan Bhujbal, senior bureaucrats of the government and Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhkoni.
In the meeting, the government decided to explore all possible legal options to ensure quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the upcoming local body polls, including elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), said sources.
Kumbakoni said in the meeting that the SC order was ambiguous in terms of whether the court has stayed the law passed by the MVA government, taking away the powers of the SEC regarding ward formation in local bodies.
Some ministers also raised questions on the status of the law, whether it will be in effect or ward formation should be done afresh, said sources.
“We discussed all aspects of the SC order and its impact on the OBC quota. There are divergent views on the SC order in the government. So, we feel that the State Election Commission should decide on it. A hearing on the OBC quota in Madhya Pradesh was expected to take place on Thursday but it has been deferred for Friday. We will see what is the outcome of the SC hearing in the Madhya Pradesh case and hope that the picture will be clear. Then we will decide on further course of action,” said Bhujbal.
On Wednesday, the SC, while hearing a petition on OBC reservation in local bodies, had said that the State Election Commission must proceed with the election programme of local bodies, which had become due on expiry of their five-year term, and the SEC is obliged to notify the election programme within two weeks.
Sources in the government said the apex court has not asked the state to announce poll dates for the local bodies but to announce the election programme, which comprises four parts – ward boundaries, reservation, electoral roll and announcing code of conduct.
“Also, in the SC order, there is no mention of staying or scrapping the government law, taking away powers of the SEC for ward formation. So, we feel that it means the law will not be applicable to those local bodies whose elections are overdue and will be applicable to the upcoming local bodies,” said an official.