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UP: BJP on Backfoot After Allahabad HC Orders Urban Local Polls Sans OBC Quota

Opposition targets BJP ahead of civic polls; UP government moves SC against order.

Lucknow: A day after the Allahabad High Court’s order that Uttar Pradesh’s urban local body (ULB) polls should be held at the earliest and that no reservation should be given to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in these polls until the Supreme Court-stipulated "triple test" is completed by the state government, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which who relies heavily on the backward votes, is on the backfoot.

The key Opposition parties, including Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) attacked the BJP government, terming it “anti-reservation” and alleging that it had "snatched" reservation rights from OBCs and would "do the same with Scheduled Castes (SCs)" in future.

The HC order has also opened a window of opportunity for SP to push its claim as the predominant political party representing the deprived sections of society.

On Wednesday, SP state president Naresh Uttam announced that his party would organise "Aarakshan Bachao Yatra” (Save Reservation March) across the state. He said his party would take the issue of reservation for OBCs to every nook and corner of the state and expose the “anti-OBC” face of BJP.

The detailed plan of the yatra would be announced by party president Akhilesh Yadav, Naresh told reporters in Lucknow. 

"The High Court judgement has given an opportunity to SP to fight back and paint BJP as an anti-OBC party and regain its lost ground. In the past eight years, the last two Lok Sabha elections (2014 and 2019), and two Assembly elections in 2017 and 2019, BJP has dealt a severe blow to the caste-based identity politics of SP. It has made significant inroads in the backward Ccass vote bank of SP," Avinash Singh, a political commentator based in Lucknow, told NewsClick. 

On Tuesday, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court quashed the state government’s draft notification on urban local body elections and ordered holding the polls within a month without reservation for OBCs.

The verdict was passed by a division bench of Justice DK Upadhyay and Justice Saurav Lavania.

The bench also annulled the draft notification issued by the Uttar Pradesh government on December 5 for reservation of OBCs in urban local body elections.

Attacking the Yogi Adityanath Government over the OBC reservation fiasco, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav said: "The behaviour of BJP toward the backward classes has been step-motherly. Today, the reservation of backward classes has been taken away. This is cheating. The right given by Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar is being snatched away. A conspiracy is being hatched to oust the OBC community from power. There is a conspiracy to hold back the generations to come. BJP wants the votes of the backward classes but does not want to give them a share in power.”

The SP president said the governments of UP and the Centre were formed with the votes of backward castes, but there was no place for that section of the population in sharing power.

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, too, took Twitter to attack the Yogi Adityanath government. She said OBCs would punish BJP for this mistake, adding that the HC order exposes the “anti-OBC” and the “anti-reservation” mindset and thinking of the saffron party. 

Speaking with NewsClick, SP leader Rajeev Rai said: "It is a conspiracy by the BJP government to deprive the backward classes of reservation. We will soon start Aarakshan Bachao Yatras across the state to make aware how BJP continuously comes to power with the vote of OBCs but when it comes to give political representation, they are betrayed.”

Read Also: UP: 'BJP's Pasmanda Appeasement is Nothing More Than Hollow Rhetoric'

Rai further added that "the same party (BJP) was aggressively going for Pasmanda (Muslim) outreach programme but it has proved now that they are only doing it for sake of sympathy. In reality, they do not care about "socio-economic uplift" of the Pasmanda community and OBCs either."

Along with the Opposition attack, there were signs of unease from BJP’s ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) which tweeted to say that civic polls without OBC reservation were not appropriate. “We are studying the High Court’s order in this regard. If found necessary, Apna Dal (S) will knock on the door of the Supreme Court for the rights of the OBCs,” the party tweeted in Hindi.

Om Prakash Rajbhar's Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, which has been sidelined by SP after recent defeat in Assembly elections, attacked the ruling party and asked it to clear its stand on OBC reservation.

The urban local body polls, last held in 2017, were expected to be conducted by December this year. The elections are being seen as a test of the state’s urban pulse before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP has traditionally done well in these polls.

UP has 762 urban local bodies, including 17 mayoral contests, 200 nagarpalika parishads and 545 nagar panchayats.

Many government ministers, including prominent OBC faces, such as deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and Jal Shakti minister Swatantra Dev Singh, however, have  said that the government would not let OBC rights be harmed.

Commenting over the order and the triggering political debate, Sunil Awasthi, a senior journalist based in Prayagraj, told NewsClick: "This is an opportunity for Akhilesh Yadav to encash its core voter base which BJP has dented. If they succeed in advertising that BJP is anti-OBC, its effect will be seen in local body elections and also create trouble for the saffron party."

UP Govt Moves SC

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh administration filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Thursday calling for OBC reservation in the upcoming urban local body polls. The appeal, filed through advocate on record Ruchira Goel, said the OBCs are a constitutionally protected section and the high court erred in quashing the draft notification, as per a PTI report.

On Wednesday, the government also appointed a five-member commission for studying issues for providing OBC reservation in urban local body polls.

The panel, headed by Justice (Retd) Ram Avtar Singh, has four other members -- retired Indian Administrative Service officers Chaub Singh Verma and Mahendra Kumar, and former legal advisors to the state Santosh Kumar Viskarma and Brajesh Kumar Soni, as per PTI.

However, the panel head Justice (retd) Ram Avtar Singh on Thursday told reporters that it would take six months to prepare the reservation draft following the 'triple test' formula prescribed by the Supreme Court.

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