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Local bodies’ polls should be postponed till OBC quota restored, says Chhagan Bhujbal

The state poll panel on Tuesday announced by-polls for Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti seats for Dhule, Nandurbar, Washim, Akola and Nagpur.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: June 23, 2021 7:18:12 pm
Chhagan BhujbalChhagan Bhujbal (Express file photo by Yatish Bhanu)

A day after the state election commission announced dates for by-elections in local bodies in five districts, Cabinet minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal on Wednesday said the polls in Maharashtra should be postponed till OBC reservation is restored.

“Any haste to conduct elections would be an injustice to the OBC community,” Bhujbal said.

The state poll panel on Tuesday announced by-polls for Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti seats for Dhule, Nandurbar, Washim, Akola and Nagpur. The elections were necessitated in the wake of the Supreme Court order quashing OBC (Other Backward Class) reservation in local bodies following which the seats were converted into general category seats. The by-polls will take place on July 19 followed by counting on July 20.

Addressing the media on Wednesday, OBC leader Bhujbal said, “We urge election commission to postpone the by-elections.”

Accusing the Centre of being reluctant in sharing the empirical data on OBCs, Bhujbal said, “The restoration of the quota is possible only with the Centre’s intervention.”

The Opposition’s charge that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government allowed the ordinance granting reservation to the OBCs in the state to lapse, or failed to furnish empirical data as recommended by Apex court is misleading, Bhujbal said.

On March 4, the SC read down Section 12(2)(c) of The Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961 and stated that it may be invoked only upon complying with the triple conditions before notifying the seats reserved for OBC category. One of the conditions required setting up of a commission to “conduct contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies, within the State” to specify the proportion of reservation required.

Bhujbal said that during the previous government, “the matter went to and fro from one department to another and even (former Chief Minister) Devendra Fadnavis government could not get the empirical data on OBCs.”

He said: “The MVA government came to power 15 months ago and has been grappling with Covid-19 pandemic. To expect the state government to carry out fresh census to ascertain OBC population is ridiculous. How can we undertake a door-to-door census amid Covid?”

Therefore, he said, “The only solution is Centre’s help. If the Centre can provide data to the Supreme Court, it can help to take the issue forward. We will also approach the court. The court can direct the Centre to make the data available to the state.”

Earlier, Fadnavis slammed the MVA for its “flip flop” on the issue.

“Two days ago, Congress leader Vijay Waddetiwar announced they will not allow elections till the OBC issue is resolved. A day later, NCP’s Hassan Mushriff said no polls till 70 per cent population vaccinated. Yet, the state election commission has announced by-poll dates. This has badly exposed the lack of coordination among the three parties’ (Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) coalition,” said the Opposition leader.

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