SC verdict: Maha to conduct local bodies polls with OBC quotas (Ld)

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With the Supreme Court’s nod to the J.K. Banthia Commission Report on political reservations for Other Backward Class, Maharashtra has set the ball rolling to conduct the delayed elections to various local bodies in the state.

In what will be a sort of ‘mini-general election’, the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) sources said it will go ahead with the programme for the polls in 367 local bodies wherever due.

There are a total of 23 Municipal Corporations, 220 Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats, 25 Zilla Parishads and 284 Panchayat Samitis across the state.

The development came after Supreme Court accepted the J.K. Banthia Commission Report recommending 27 per cent reservations overall, with the SEC likely to declare the local bodies election schedule within two weeks, as directed by the apex court on Wednesday.

The panel headed by a former state chief secretary, was set up by the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in March 2022, to collate the empirical data of the OBC communities scattered around the state, with plans to hold a caste-based Census before the government collapsed on June 29.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party leaders like Jayant Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal, Dhananjay Munde, Congress’ Nana Patole, Vijay Wadettivar and Atul Londhe, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Chandrakant Patil and Pankaja Munde, among many others from different parties and OBC leaders have welcomed the Supreme Court verdict.

The Banthia Commission had submitted its report to the state government on July 7, recommending reservations for OBC peoples’ representatives to work in major positions in Panchayat Samitis, Zilla Parishads, Nagar Panchayats, Municipal Councils and Municipal Corporations in the state.

The state government moved an application in the Supreme Court seeking for directions to hold the local bodies elections under the relevant laws and notifying a reservation pattern as per the Banthia Commission report of July 7.

As per the last Maharashtra Economic Survey (2021-2022), the state has 27,831 Gram Panchayats, 351 Panchayat Samitis, 34 Zilla Parishads, 128 Nagar Panchayats, 241 Municipal Councils and 27 Municipal Corporations as the local bodies.

With the implementation of the 27 per cent OBC political quotas, the top posts like Mayor in Municipal Corporations, heads in municipal councils, chairpersons in Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samitis will be given to peoples’ representatives from the OBCs.

There are 295 OBCs including various tribals and special backward category communities who are likely to get the fruits of the new political reservations, though it will not apply to certain districts where the SC/ST population is already 50 per cent.

In Maharashtra, based on the Census data and the voters lists, an estimated 37 per cent of the population falls under the OBCs, as per the Banthia Commission Report, though its percentage varies from one region to another.

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