The Supreme Court has entrusted the Backward Classes Commission with the responsibility of giving political reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the upcoming local body elections in Maharashtra.
The state governments will have to hand over the available data of OBCs to the commission. Whether the OBC reservation can be given or not will be decided by the commission within the next two weeks. This decision has been taken only in view of the upcoming elections.
The hearing on a review petition filed by Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh is going on simultaneously in the Supreme Court. In an earlier decision, the top court had cancelled political reservations for the OBCs.
All political parties faced a big setback due to this. According to the last census figures, Maharashtra has about 52 percent OBC population, which can play an important role in making or breaking the equation of any party.
That is why political parties had demanded the postponement of the local body and municipal elections till the final decision on OBC reservation was taken.
Despite this, elections to 106 Nagar Panchayats and two Zilla Parishads were held in Maharashtra, the results of which are being interpreted in many ways.
In such a situation, if we look at the election data that has come out, the effect of local body elections on the politics of Maharashtra without OBC reservation becomes apparent.
What Do the Election Results Say?
Out of 106 Nagar Panchayats, the results for 97 have come out.
(The results for nine Nagar Panchayats of Gadchiroli will be out on 20 January.)
26 Nagar Panchayats – Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)
25 – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
18 – Congress
14 – Shiv Sena
16 – Other
The NCP's seat tally is 344, while the BJP has won 384 seats. Congress and Shiv Sena have won 316 and 284 seats, respectively.
The Congress stood at the third position, and despite having the chair of the chief minister, Shiv Sena finished at the fourth position. The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, including the three parties in power, have won the civic elections.
But despite fighting single-handedly, the BJP has given a tough competition by winning 26 panchayats.
Whose Benefit, Whose Loss?
Accepting their victory, NCP's State President Jayant Patil attacked the BJP, saying that his party's workers have given a befitting reply to the BJP, which had called the NCP, a party of three-and-a-half districts. Meanwhile, BJP State President Chandrakant Patil has claimed the BJP to be the number one party.
At the same time, taking aim at the BJP’s old ally Shiv Sena, Patil said that in view of the increasing power of the NCP, joining the MVA government seems to be a losing deal for Shiv Sena.
Meanwhile, Congress State President Nana Patole described the performance of his party as satisfactory.
Though in Patole's home ground Bhandara, he may have been defeated by the NCP, in Vidarbha, which is considered a BJP stronghold, the Congress is at the fore and has also opened its account in Konkan, due to which the party seems satisfied.
OBC leader Pankaja Munde from the BJP claimed that even after the cancellation of OBC reservation, the BJP fielded OBC candidates, due to which it won the maximum number of seats. There has been no reaction from any big leader of Shiv Sena on the results so far.
What Was the Effect of Cancellation of OBC Reservation?
OBC researcher Prof Shravan Deore believes that like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu, OBCs do not have a political option in Maharashtra. That is why OBCs get divided among all the parties in the state.
Further, he adds, it is natural for the BJP to win the maximum number of seats in this election as it has contested on the maximum number of seats.
However, among the three parties of the MVA, the NCP, which has a higher Maratha vote base than the OBCs, has got the maximum number of panchayats.
On the other hand, political analyst Ravikiran Deshmukh's assessment is that it is becoming clear from the local bodies that the effect of cancellation of OBC reservation was not seen on a large scale. The reason for this could be that local elections are fought on local issues and leaders.
Apart from this, the issue of political reservation is important only for the candidates contesting, not for the common folk. Its effect would have been seen if the reservation related to education and jobs would have been hurt.
In such a situation, the municipal elections held in Maharashtra acted as a litmus test for the issue of reservation.
The OBC reservation debate, which started with the Devendra Fadnavis government, had become a headache for the MVA government as well. In Maharashtra, elections are going to be held in a few months to the 28 Zilla Parishads, 20 municipal corporations, and 282 municipalities. It will be interesting to see how the new order on the OBC reservation will affect them.