Even as Telangana’s marathon of elections comes to an end with the upcoming municipal elections, opposition parties and BC organisations are protesting against the state government alleging flaws and dilution of Backward Class (BC) reservation.
With the government deciding to cap the reservation at 50% in the new Municipal Act, BC organisations are crying foul that the move will damage their erstwhile 33% quota in united Andhra.
While CM KCR told the Assembly that the new bill is being brought in for good governance and welfare in the state, BC organisations say that it will decrease representation from their community.
The reservation problem
In its hurry to conduct the municipal elections before the due date, Telangana has decided to follow measures taken in the recent Panchayat Raj elections, where BCs were given 22% reservation.
The decision, taken by KCR, had drawn flak from BC organisations who cited the Samagra Kutumba Survey, an intensive household survey conducted by the state in 2014, which showed that BCs constituted 51% of the population. However, if the BC quota had to be enhanced to 51%, the total percentage of reservation in the Panchayat Raj elections would have been 79%, violating the cap of 50% on political reservation set by the Supreme Court.
At the time, critics had pointed out that the Chief Minister was ready to fight for 61% quota in the Supreme Court, as he had passed a bill granting reservation to economically backward minorities in the state. They claimed that he could have also defended the 51% reservation to BCs in the same spirit.
With the KCR-led TRS government now passing a new bill with regard to the administration of municipalities in the state, and suggesting that the political reservation was likely to be capped at 50%, leaders from the BC community fear that it would likely to reduce their quota to around 28%-30%.
Hearing a petition that claimed that the government is rushing to conduct the municipal elections, the High Court had earlier asked the government to go ahead only after resolving all the objections raised by voters in a meaningful manner. The petitioner alleged that the government was giving very little time to address the objections over the delimitation of wards, issue of photo identity cards, and identification of SC, ST, BC, and women voters.
MLA and National BC Welfare Association chairman R Krishnaiah said that the TRS government had reduced the BC reservation in Panchayat elections to 22% and failed to take any measures to maintain the 33% reservation for BCs in ULBs like erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh.
Speaking to TNM, Krishnaiah said, “Firstly capping reservation at 50% itself is problematic. When the union government exceeded it by giving 10% to the EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) category why does the state government want to stick to it?”
He also alleged that the Telangana government was deliberately showing lesser BC populations in urban areas to deny them reservation.
He also said, “The state Samagra Kutumba Survey itself showed that BCs are more than 40% in urban areas. Reducing their reservation to below 30% is unacceptable, we will not tolerate any move that damages the interests of the BC communities.”
BJP Telangana spokesperson M Raghunanadan Rao told TNM that TRS has made compromises in the implementation of BC reservation in municipalities. He said, “Since the TRS is considering even Muslims as BCs under the BC-E category, reservation for other BCs is severely affected.”
He further alleged that “reconstitution and reshuffling” of municipalities, like adding other villages and towns in municipalities and corporations, is being done as per the convenience of the TRS.
He said, “The local TRS MLAs know the composition of each municipality and their winning choices in certain pockets. They’re adding villages and towns to make sure they will win wherever their chances are less.”
The Congress is also opposing the government alleging that the BC reservation is getting diluted. According to recent reports, BC voters in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation limits apparently fell to 29.64% which is 2% less than what it was in 2015.
Utter nonsense, fabrication of facts & deliberate denial of political empowerment 2 Backward Classes in #Telangana as their voter percentage reported to have fallen by 2% in Greater #Hyderabad @INCIndia @rssurjewala @Jairam_Ramesh @vidyarthee @ProfCong https://t.co/pwc4LM0ehH— Dr Sravan Dasoju (@sravandasoju) July 9, 2019
Official Congress spokesperson Dr Dasoju Sravan Kumar tweeted: “Utter nonsense, fabrication of facts & deliberate denial of political empowerment 2 Backward Classes in Telangana as their voter percentage reported to have fallen by 2% in Greater Hyderabad.”
Municipality elections are likely to be conducted in the first week of the August, where all parties including the BJP which recently won four MP seats in the state, will contest.
Are the claims valid?
According to the Samagra Kutumba Survey conducted by the state government in 2014, the BC population in the state is estimated to be around 52%. Comprising more than half the state population, BCs are considered politically significant in the state.
Political scholars and analysts are of the opinion that, given the community’s population, political parties can consolidate their positions using the issue.
Dr Siliveru Harinath, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) told TNM, “Different communities can demand reservation on the basis of their respective population, the government needs to clarify the validity of the population figures from the Samagra Kutumba Survey.”
Dr E Venkateshu, Political Science Professor, observed that the 50% cap on reservation is pointless as the union government has already paved the way by according 10% reservation to EWS through constitutional amendment.
He said, “Not giving reservation for BCs in municipal elections as per the population would deprive them of political representation.”