Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, on Wednesday, sent a letter to the Maharashtra State Election Commission with a plea to postpone the by-elections to the local bodies in the wake of a possible third wave of COVID-19 and the threat of delta plus variant. The decision was taken after strong objections were raised by the ruling partners at the state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
The cabinet was unanimous that, in the present circumstances, elections should not be held, especially when the monsoon session of the state legislature has been curtailed and restrictions have been imposed on the annual Pandharpur Wari because of the increase in cases. Besides, ministers pointed out that due to the strict restrictions, none of the political party leaders would be able to hold poll rallies.
Kunte told the Free Press Journal, “The letter has been sent to the state Election Commission citing the present pandemic.” A senior minister said that the commission did not consult the chief secretary before announcing the poll schedule. The cabinet expressed its displeasure, as such a consultation was necessary and ultimately the government deploys manpower to hold incident-free elections.
The state Election Commission had announced the schedule for the elections in 5 zilla parishads and 33 panchayat samitis in the state. Voting for the by-elections will take place on July 19 next month. The results will be announced on July 20, the next day.
However, OBC leaders from the ruling and opposition have strongly opposed holding elections in local bodies till the 27% political reservation for OBCs is restored. The Supreme Court has scrapped the quota, citing it exceeds the 50% reservation ceiling. This has led to a blame game, as the Maha Vikas Aghadi government held the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government responsible. While BJP has criticised the present establishment for the situation.
OBC ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Vijay Wadettiwar and BJP leader Pankajan Munde separately announced that the elections won’t be allowed till the quota is restored. On the other hand, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said that BJP will field OBC candidates in the constituencies even if they lose the polls.