The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat on Friday passed a bill in the assembly that earmarks 27 per cent seats in local bodies like panchayats, municipalities and civic corporations for Other Backward Classes.
The Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill 2023 was passed through a majority voice vote after all the 17 Congress MLAs, including Congress Legislative Party leader Amit Chavda and senior MLA Arjun Modhwadia, staged a walkout in protest demanding higher ratio of reservation and tabling of a report of the commission headed by former Supreme Court Justice KS Zaveri.
On August 29, the BJP government in Gujarat had announced 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes in local bodies like panchayats, municipalities and civic corporations on the basis of a report submitted by the Zaveri commission.
Earlier, OBC reservation in local bodies was 10 per cent in Gujarat. To hike it to 27 per cent, the state government introduced the bill to amend relevant provisions related to reservation in the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporation Act of 1949, The Gujarat Municipalities Act of 1963 and The Gujarat Panchayats Act of 1993.
However, in areas notified under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, most of them with a substantial tribal population, the OBC quota in local bodies will remain 10 per cent.
Also, the existing quota for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes will remain unchanged and there has been no breach of the 50 per cent reservation ceiling, Gujarat Minister for Parliamentary and Legislative Affairs Rushikesh Patel said while tabling the bill in the assembly.
Congress members demanded that instead of a uniform ratio of 27 per cent applicable to all the local bodies of the state, reservation should be declared unit-wise in proportion to the OBC population in these units, such as a district panchayat or a municipal corporation.
The opposition Congress alleged the state government was committing "injustice" by giving just 27 per cent when it could offer a much higher percentage.
If the unit-wise system is followed, the OBC quota for Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation will be different from Surat Municipal Corporation or a district panchayat because of the difference in the respective OBC population, Chavda said.
The opposition Congress also demanded tabling of the commission's report claiming that without going through the findings and recommendations of the report, discussion on the bill was meaningless.
After the ruling dispensation refused to accept these demands, the 17 Congress MLAs walked out of the House, following which the bill was passed with a majority voice vote.
During a heated debate, Congress MLA Chavda said the BJP government is not following the Supreme Court order about fixing reservation quota based on population in each unit.
"You need to give unit-wise reservation as directed by the SC. As per the available data, AMC has nearly 40 per cent OBC population. If we put the population of SCs and STs at 10 per cent, you can still reserve 40 per cent seats for OBCs. Instead, only 27 per cent seats will be reserved because of your decision to give uniform quota to all. This will reduce the representation of OBCs," Chavda alleged.