Maha govt to legislate, prepare empirical data for OBC quota

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Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar told the state assembly that they are firm on postponing the elections for local bodies till the 27% quota is restored

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government is planning to introduce a bill in the assembly on Monday to take the powers for delimitation and formation of wards from the State Election Commission (SEC) while the former collects empirical data needed for restoration of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota for local polls.

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar told the state assembly that they are firm on postponing the elections for local bodies till the 27% quota is restored. He said the legislation will be brought along the lines of Madhya Pradesh.

“We will hold a Cabinet meet today [Friday] evening and adopt measures like Madhya Pradesh…We will prepare a bill on the lines of Madhya Pradesh so we can look at delimitation and formation of wards ourselves. We will put it before both the House on Monday and let us get it cleared. Till then, we will prepare empirical data and only then hold elections by giving representation to OBCs.”

The comments came a day after the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the SEC to go ahead with elections to local bodies without the 27% OBC quota. It cited “lack of rationale” and “absence of contemporaneous data” to reject an interim report of the state backward commission recommending the quota.

The court criticised the report, saying it lacked logic. It added the report accepted the authenticity of some data apparently only because Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray was present at the meeting when it was submitted to the commission in January. The court restrained authorities from acting on the report. It directed the commission to continue its study on contemporaneous data and submit its report with rationales that stand judicial scrutiny.

The court earlier quashed an ordinance for 27% reservation for the OBCs in local body polls.

The state government cited the report and last week urged the court to reserve the seats for OBCs. The quota was stayed in December because of a lack of recommendation of the commission.

Pravin Darekar, the Opposition leader in the state legislative council, hit out at the government for failing to secure the quota for the numerically significant and politically important community. “The state government wasted a year in blaming the Centre. They had a year to prepare the empirical data but failed to do so. The government is not serious about OBC political quota. There is widespread unrest in the community due to the carelessness of the government. Maharashtra has a huge OBC population. What is the government’s plan?”

Pawar insisted there was no carelessness on part of the government as it had the best legal minds for the case.

The legislative council was adjourned once over the Opposition’s demand for suspension of the day’s business for a debate on the quota issue.

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