Maharashtra SEC announces byelections in local body seats affected by SC ruling on OBC quota

Political row breaks out in State; BJP accuses MVA govt. of betraying the OBCs

The Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) on Monday announced that byelections in five zilla parishads and panchayat samitis for seats which fell vacant after the Supreme Court quashed the OBC quota, will be held on October 5.

The announcement came days after the top court ruled that the State government cannot postpone the local body elections and it is for the Election Commission to decide.

State Election Commissioner U.P.S. Madan said the Supreme Court had specified that the State’s guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic did not apply for the byelections and that the decision on conducting the elections should be taken at the earliest. The byelections were stayed on July 9 on the State’s request pointing to the COVID-19 threat.

The SEC had sought report on the COVID-19 situation from the District Collectors of Dhule, Nandurbar, Washim, Akola, Nagpur and Palghar, and it was found that the pandemic situation was under control.

As a result, regular elections for Palghar zilla parishad and panchayat samiti will also be held along with the byelections in five districts. The counting of votes will be held on October 6.

Political row

The decision to hold the byelections has led to a political row in the State as an all-party meeting had decided to not to go ahead with the poll programme owing to the verdict by the top court, scrapping political reservation of OBCs.

The Opposition BJP accused the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of betraying the OBCs.

BJP leader Chandrashekhar Bawankule said the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government had backstabbed the OBCs. “The government kept holding unproductive meetings on OBC reservation but did not act as per the court order to collect empirical data. This government is responsible for scrapping the reservation of OBCs,” he said.

The Congress slammed the BJP, pointing out that it was the Union government which did not bring in the amendment to extend the reservation quota beyond the 50% mark.

“The Central government gave rights to the States to decide on OBCs but it failed to extend the reservation quota beyond 50%,” State Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe said.

Mr. Londhe said the previous State government of the BJP in 2017 had postponed the Nagpur zilla parishad elections, which resulted in similar demands in other districts.

“Due to this case, the Supreme Court has raised questions about empirical data of OBCs which will jeopardise political reservation of OBCs across the country,” he said.

On March 4, the Supreme Court scrapped the political reservation of OBCs which was extending beyond the 50% mark. The review petition filed by the State government was quashed in May.

Mr. Thackeray had meetings to discuss the situation where all parties had agreed to not hold the elections till the reservation is restored.

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