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HomeEnglishWhy MVA, BJP agree on one matter: BMC poll postponement

Why MVA, BJP agree on one matter: BMC poll postponement

The passage of two legislation in the ongoing Maharashtra Budget Session, facilitating the postponement of local body polls, suits the purpose of both the ruling and opposition parties in the state.

The decision comes amidst the jostling over OBC quota, with the Maha Vikas Aghadi and BJP both trying to send the message that local body elections will not take place till reservation for seats for OBCs was restored.

On Monday, the state Assembly and Council passed the Bills amending the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act, 1989, Maharashtra Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti Act, 1961, Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, and Nagar Panchayat and Industrial Township Act, 1965.

Moved by Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, the Bills were passed with unconditional consent by all parties.

The Bills were moved after a consensus was reached between ruling allies Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena to put the polls on hold at internal meetings. As Deputy CM Ajit Pawar put it, “We cannot compromise on OBC reservation. If polls were held, it would have been injustice to the community.” The way forward was to bring the legislation, he said.

The ruling coalition played its cards cleverly. By saying it was adopting a legislation modelled after Madhya Pradesh, the MVA stumped the BJP as Madhya Pradesh is a BJP-ruled state.

The legislation empower the state government to decide delimitation of wards, fix the number of members in these bodies, as well as lay down that the State Election Commission can decide the poll schedule of local bodies only after adequate consultation with the state government.

The BJP put up a protest, but it was feeble. While it has expressed the worry that the delimitation of wards in the BMC might be to the advantage of the Shiv Sena, it cannot afford to let the Congress walk away with the narrative on the OBC quota.

Publicly, the BJP questioned the legislation. Noting that the OBC quota had been put on hold by courts seeking empirical data to establish need for the same, opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis said, “What was the necessity for bringing the legislation? Had the state government complied with the triple test (on empirical data) and restored the OBC quota, we could have averted the situation.”

The BJP leader said that the party had offered help to the state government to compile the data. “It could have been done in three to four months.”

Senior OBC leader Haribhau Rathod expressed disappointment over the legislation. “Both the MVA and BJP are playing politics. Neither are concerned about OBC welfare,” Rathod said, adding that the legislation ended up giving the state government all the powers to determine the polls and process of delimitation of wards. “It grossly undermines the independent authority of the State Election Commission,” Rathod said, adding that the OBC reservation process might end up getting embroiled in legal and legislative tangles.

Last year, the Supreme Court had ordered scrapping of OBC reservation in local body elections in the state. A review petition by the MVA government in this regard was also rejected. The Court had asked the state government to set up a State Backward Class Commission first, and compile empirical data to substantiate the political backwardness of OBCs.

While the state government constituted the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission, it failed to furnish empirical data.

Although a 27% OBC quota is applicable for education and government jobs, the political quota in local bodies is what is under question.

Elections to 15 municipal corporations, including BMC, 25 zilla parishads and 232 municipal councils are scheduled this year.

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