Karnataka’s state government is said to convene another all-party meeting on Thursday, March 31, to assess and build consensus on the controversial issue of reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in much-awaited local body elections, pending since September 2020 after the city council’s term expired.
The news comes in the backdrop of the recent Supreme Court ruling that state governments have to produce empirical data to justify reservation for OBCs.
The government is therefore hesitant to hold polls for Zilla and taluk panchayats also, which were due in April-May last year.
“There is no question of going ahead with elections to local bodies without ensuring reservation for OBCs. We will decide the next course of action only after ensuring social justice to backward classes,” said K S Eshwarappa, minister for rural development and panchayat raj, at the legislative assembly.
This is the second all-party meeting in less than 10 days. The previous meeting was held last week to address the same issue. Currently, the state has 26.4% reservation for OBCs in local bodies.
The government could file a review petition before the Supreme Court seeking permission to conduct elections with the present provisions of 26.4% reservation. However, reports said legal experts think this will not result in the desired outcome.
The government could set up a new panel to conduct a survey to collect data on wards eligible for OBC reservation or entrust the job to the existing State Commission for Backward Classes (KSCBC), according to reports.
These methods will require an amendment to The Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission Act. The third option is to But legal experts have reportedly advised the government against this as they are pessimistic about the outcome.
Opposition MLCs expressed concern that these tedious procedures may further delay in conducting BBMP polls. Moreover, the government has been given a new deadline by the Panchamasali Lingayats, a subsect of the dominant and politically significant Lingayat community in Karnataka, to decide on its demand for reservations under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.
The deadline set for April 14, demands inclusion of Lingayats in the OBC category to be eligible to avail 15% reservations in government education and jobs instead of the current 5% quota from the state BJP government.
The reservation scramble is making for more political heat ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the state.
Randeep Singh Surjewala, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and Karnataka in-charge, added fuel, saying Modi and Shah should look into allegations of 40% commission being collected by BJP ministers, leaders and MLAs in Karnataka as alleged by the contractors’ association.
He alleged that ‘the 40% BJP government’ led by Basavaraj Bommai, is corrupt and does not have the right to continue in power even for a single day. “I heard that both Shah and Modi are coming to Karnataka. They should remove corrupt ministers and government. Otherwise, it proves that the 40% commission reaches up to New Delhi and Nagpur,” he said.