As instructed by the Supreme Court, the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) has resumed the local body pre-poll process from where it stopped on March 10 this year following the enactment of new laws that transferred its (the SEC’s) powers to the government.
But the process is expected to prolong because of the sheer volume of the local bodies (2,486) and different stages of pre-poll preparations. The time taken to complete it augurs well for the state government that has decided to collate the empirical data for the OBC quota as early as next month, in order to get it restored by the SC, if not in all local bodies, at least in those that might go to polls after the court’s order.
Sources in the SEC said the district collectors were instructed on Friday to go ahead with the process that was in different phases in 216 municipal councils and 1,942 gram panchayats (village bodies) that are overdue for polls. For any local body election, time-consuming processes like ward formation, drawing lottery for political reservations in public presence, preparation of voters’ list after due public hearing, etc. need to be completed before announcing the model code of conduct and the election dates. The SEC has been asked to follow the old ward formation instead of the one that the state government started after increasing the number of representatives based on population growth.
SEC needs ample time
The officials in SEC and state government assume that the pre-poll process will take a couple of months, maybe more, to get finalised. Also, the SEC has told the SC that conducting polls in the rainy season will be a difficult task. As allowed by the court, the SEC can seek a reprieve in case of any difficulty that affects its ongoing work.
“We have begun with in-house work. Information on the work completed and pending will be collated, and the collectors asked to resume the task from the state where it was stalled,” a senior SEC officer told mid-day on Friday. He said instructions have been issued to municipal councils and gram panchayats, and the next will be zilla parishads and municipal corporations including Mumbai. The process for ZPs hadn’t taken off before the enactment of state laws, he said.
More time taken
The state government’s hopes to get the OBC quota restored largely depend on the time the SEC takes to complete the pre-poll process. OBC welfare minister Vijay Wadettiwar said on Thursday that the time thus available, will be used to collate empirical data, the only thing that needs to be submitted before the SC. The government has been awaiting a verdict in a similar case related to Madhya Pradesh. The SC is expected to pass an order in the case on May 10.
The laws that transferred the SEC’s powers to the government have not been struck off by the SC, but their scrutiny cannot be ruled out in the future. As of now, the government has decided to not ask for the SC’s review in the recent order. It has asked the dedicated commission assigned to collate empirical data as early as next month.