Amid the threat of the delta plus variant of COVID-19 and a possible third wave, the Maharashtra government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court with an appeal to defer the elections to the local bodies by six months. The government’s move came days after the state Election Commission last week announced the schedule for the elections in 5 zilla parishads and 33 panchayat samitis. Voting for the by-elections will take place on July 19 next month. The results will be announced on July 20.
The government’s move came at a time when, cutting across party lines, leaders have pressed for the restoration of 27% political reservation for other backward classes (OBCs) in the local bodies scrapped recently by the apex court citing it crosses the 50% ceiling quota limit. OBC leaders have warned that elections should not take place till the quota is restored.
The petition was filed by the Rural Development Department (RDD) after Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte 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 the delta plus variant. The decision was taken after strong objection was 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 rise in cases. Besides, ministers pointed out that, due to the restrictions, none of the political party leaders would be able to hold poll rallies.
The government brought to the notice of the apex court that the state Election Commission did not consult the Chief Secretary before announcing the poll schedule.
Meanwhile, another petition will be filed urging the apex court to direct the Centre to share empirical data on OBCs to the state government.