The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the implementation of reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the local body elections to be held in Madhya Pradesh, with reservation limit of 50 per cent.
With the Supreme Court’s decision to allow elections with the OBC reservation, senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress in Madhya Pradesh welcomed the decision, saying, ‘justice prevailed’. Both parties claimed that the initiative for providing reservation for OBCs was taken by them, and accused each other of being “anti-OBC”.
Expressing happiness over the Supreme Court’s decision, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said: “We had made our intentions clear on this issue. We wanted the local body elections to be held with OBC reservation and all preparations were made for this purpose. The election dates were announced, but the Congress went to the court and the process was stayed. The Congress committed a sin for political gains, but today justice prevailed and the truth won.”
Chouhan counted the efforts made by his government to provide reservation to OBC. He said that his government initiated the process of forming the OBC commission and a survey was conducted across the state to collect facts regarding the same.
“The SC relied on the commission’s report, subsequently the decision to allow elections with OBC quota was announced,” Chouhan added.
The apex court’s decision came on the basis of the Backward Classes Commission’s report of triple test for reservation submitted by the state government to seek permission to implement the OBC quota for the elections.
The state government has submitted that the delimitation exercise in the state had been completed even before the May 10 order. However, these crucial facts had not been placed before the court prior to the order.
After observing the commission’s reports, the bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar modified the court’s May 10 order directing the State Election Commission to notify the election programme for over 20,000 urban and panchayat local bodies in the state within two weeks, without waiting for the completion of the ‘triple test’ exercise and further delimitation prior to the polls.
“We permit the state of Madhya Pradesh to notify the reservation pattern local body wise to be adhered to by the state election commission within one week. The state election commission shall notify the election programme in respect of the concerned local bodies within one week,” the Supreme Court order stated.
Meanwhile, the reasons behind political trade barbs over OBC reservation have emerged for the power gaining exercise of both the Congress and the BJP during the assembly polls scheduled in the state next year.
As per the OBC Commission’s report submitted to the court, the OBC population in the parts of state, such as Gwalior-Chambal, Bundelkhand, Vindya and central zone of Madhya Pradesh has nearly 51 per cent.
Political analysts said that out of total 230 assembly seats, the percentage of OBC voters are deciding factors.
L. Kumar Mishra, a senior journalist, told IANS: “Before 2003, there was rare political attention on OBC. Though the politics over OBC started coming on central stage in the state during the Digvijaya Singh government when a proposal for extending OBC quota from 14 per cent to 27 per cent was passed, but, the issue remained in the court and the Congress did pay much attention to it. The BJP managed to gain massive support from the OBC since 2003, but in the last assembly polls had also managed to get support from OBC voters.”
At present, from 230 assembly seats, 60 MLAs belong to the OBC community in Madhya Pradesh. After 2020 by-polls, the BJP has 32 MLAs from the OBC category and 28 from the Congress.
Ajad Singh Dabas, former chief coordinator of joint OBC union in Madhya Pradesh, said: “Neither the BJP nor the Congress did give attention to OBC because Madhya Pradesh’s politics has always been centralised on upper castes and the ST/SC. Most of the OBC leaders in both political parties have managed to gain political space at their own strength, and they were not promoted, including the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. But, now the scenario has started changing for the last few years and over 90 categories under the OBC have become deciding factors in the elections.”