By L.S. Herdenia
BHOPAL: Year 2021 said good bye to Madhya Pradesh government on a bitter note. The bitter note gave a major setback when the BJP government was forced to repeal an ordinance promulgated by it to facilitate three-tier Panchayat elections. That decision was taken because the government reserved seats for OBC candidates. The Supreme Court ordered to postpone elections. And now the whole issue is being considered by the apex court. The court will also hear several petitions filed by stake holders.
Hearing a revision petition filed by OBC groups on its order to scrap OBC reservation in the three-tier Panchayat elections in Madhya Pradesh, a Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar, on Monday allowed an application from the petitioners seeking to make the central government a party to their petition.
The court while allowing the application deferred the hearing to January 17. The Union government has also moved an application seeking to become a party in the case.
The apex court had on December 17 ordered the state election commission to stay all local body polling on OBC reserved seats and re-notify them under the general category. On December 26, the state government withdrew an ordinance on Panchayat polls and two days later, SEC terminated the Panchayat polls.
Hearing a petition challenging an ordinance passed by the state government amending some provisions of the MP Panchayat Raj & Gram Swaraj Act relating to rotation policy of reservations and delimitation of Panchayat areas, the SC had declared 27 per cent reservation given to OBCs in the election as null and void, citing its order in Kishanrao Gawali Vs Maharashtra government and directed SEC to start the election process again without providing for OBC reservation.
Some groups representing OBCs have filed petitions in SC for a recall of the order. They had also moved an application to make the central government a respondent in the case.
Senior lawyer Harish Salve and solicitor general Tushar Mehta appeared on behalf of the Centre, advocate Rameshwar P Singh on behalf of the OBC groups and senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha for the petitioners, who had challenged the ordinance promulgated by the MP government on the Panchayat election process.
State Congress spokesman and petitioners on reservation rotation Syed jaffar tweeted, “The Supreme Court has fixed the date of hearing of petitions filed by the state and central government for the Panchayat polls on January 17, 2022. The Union government has assured the Supreme Court that it is asking all states to make the ‘triple test’ mandatory for giving reservations to OBCs. “The triple-test criteria will decide which communities will be eligible for the reservation status. Jaffar pointed out that the triple test mandatory provision was not mentioned by the state government. “This argument of the Union government proves that the government of Madhya Pradesh did not complete the Constitutional requirements to give OBC reservation, due to which reservation for OBCs was ended in the state”. Jafar argued. There is still time for the state government to complete all the formalities on the directions of the Supreme Court. Make reservation on the basis of rotation and give 27 per cent reservation to OBC category and ensure conducting of Panchatat polls at the earliest” he said.
State BJP chief VD Sharma reacted strongly to the Congress allegation and said “Congress indulges in the politics of conspiracy. We have said earlier that it was the Congress party’s advocate who presented the case in such a way that OBCs were bereft of their right to reservation, The chief minister had started the process of Panchayat polls, which had been disrupted by Congress. When the court was giving its directions, why did Congress not withdrew its petition then? Even the court observed that if OBC reservations were necessary, the petitions should have been withdrawn.
The BJP State government is facing another crisis. The crisis relates to refund of several crores of rupees to the candidates who deposited security money while filing their nominations. Since the elections have been cancelled the government is under obligation to return money which aspirants deposit while filing their nominations.
Termination of Panchayat elections midway has come as a jolt – both on heart and pockets – of the thousands of candidates who had not only filed nominations for the polls but had already been assigned their symbols.
The first phase of voting was only nine days away and the deadline for withdrawal of candidature for the first two phases had passed on December 23 – five days before the polls were terminated.
“Who will compensate the loss we have suffered physical, mental as well as financial?” asked a candidate in Ramgarh village Panchayat in Rajgarh district. ” I know several others who were in the fray for the first time and had spent large sums of money. How will they manage now?”
Sources said that several candidates had spent lakhs to persuade opponents into withdrawing their candidature so that they could have an easy win. Many Panchayats had a single candidate each, who were assured of uncontested victory after having done all they could to convince competitors to step aside.
“It is absolutely wrong. Only we know what we have suffered. What was the need to announce the elections?” asked another candidate of Rajgarh district. (IPA Service)