In a major move on Sunday, the Telangana government promulgated an ordinance which restricted reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes to a maximum of 50 percent, so that the state could go ahead with conducting Panchayat Raj elections. Governor E S L Narasimhan signed the Telangana Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, officially putting this decision into place.
"In pursuance of the judgments of the Supreme Court, the upper ceiling of 50 percent vertical reservations in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs should not be breached in the context of local self-government. Accordingly, the seats and offices to be reserved for Backward Classes shall be so determined duly keeping in view the requirement of reservation in respect of SCs, STs therein, that the total number of seats/offices reserved for the SCs, STs and Backward Classes (BCs) shall not exceed 50 per cent of the total number of seats or as the cases may be, in the respective local bodies, in the manner prescribed," the new â€˜Chapter-VIII-Aâ€™ inserted in the ordinance reportedly stated.
In October, the Hyderabad High Court had directed the Telangana government to conduct panchayat polls within three months from the date of the hearing and also sent a notice to the stateâ€™s Election Commission. Following this, the EC approached the court and said that it was waiting for the state government to finalise the percentage of reservations under the provisions of the Telangana Panchayat Raj Act, 2018.
The term of the local bodies in the state had ended on August 1 this year, but the Telangana government had approached the Supreme Court seeking permission to raise the total quota for the BC communities in the state.
Presently, BCs are entitled to 34 percent reservation while the SC and ST communities are entitled to 26 percent, proportionate to their population. Telangana govt had argued that BCs comprise of more than 50 percent of the population and they needed 52 percent quota in the local body polls. However, as this would breach the 50 percent ceiling fixed by the apex court, the SC struck down the case.
Therefore, the state government has decided to go ahead with the conduct of polls with the latest ordinance being promulgated. However, this move is expected to trigger dissent within members of the BC community, who play a key role in elections, even as the state heads to the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Meanwhile, the Telangana Congress demanded that categorisation of BCs take place, so that all sub communities within the BC category get their fair share of quota.
Pointing out that almost 100 of 113 groups among BCs had no representation in Panchayat Raj or local bodies, Congress leader Sravan Dasoju said that categorisation would benefit all communities with the BC tag.
In a letter to Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, Sravan said that Panchayat Raj elections must only be held after conducting an enumeration of BC voters and their categorisation in A, B, C, D and E groups. The Congress also demanded that all deficiencies in the electoral rolls be rectified.