Former MP Ramadass urges Lieutenant Governor not to delay local body elections

He says that constituting a single-member Commission to collect data on OBCs was an “unintelligent ploy of political bosses to dilly-dally the polls”

Former Member of Parliament M. Ramadass has urged the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry Tamilisai Soundararajan not to “play into the hands of vested interests” that seek to further delay the local body elections and to instruct the Law Department to find ways and means of conducting the polls without further delay.

In a letter to the Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Ramadass said these elections, which would truly revolutionise governance, have been kept in back-burner for 53 long years from 1968 to 2021, except the period of 2006-2011. It is hard not to see the Government Order (G.O.) constituting a single-member Commission as "one more tactical but unintelligent ploy of the political bosses of Puducherry to dilly-dally the local body elections in Puducherry,” he said.

"It is quite unfortunate that your good self as Lieutenant Governor has been trapped into the irrational and undemocratic trampling of constitutional provisions in Puducherry,” Mr. Ramadass said.

He also felt that filing of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition in the Madras High Court was neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to withdraw the well conceived G.O. of 2019. The two arguments in the PILs state that the wards for Scheduled Tribes (STs) are wrongly earmarked and in a few wards, reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) has not been done correctly. The terms of reference of this Commission leads one to feel that it is unnecessary, especially when there is a dedicated State Level Backward Classes Commission that is armed with all the data on Backwardness of people. According to the Constitution of India the State Government should consult this Commission in all matters of Backwardness, even at the local body levels.

‘Data already available’

According to the former MP, the declared objective of the Lieutenant Governor’s order was to facilitate the new Commission to collect data on population of OBCs, ward wise, in 10 municipalities, 10 Commune Panchayats and 812 Village Panchayats, and to provide reservation in wards to OBCs in proportion to their population. However, the superfluousness of the single-member Commission would become evident after a cursory look at the earlier G.O.s of 2019, especially the one dated March 7, 2019, which amply showed that the data that is proposed to be collected by this Commission is already available with the government, he contended.

As per these orders, the existing reservation for BCs was 39/116 seats in Municipalities (33.6%), 37/108 seats in commune panchayats (34.3%) and 272/812 seats in village panchayats (33.5%). In the big picture, 348 of the total 1036 seats (33.6%) were reserved for BCs. The reservation of seats to OBCs has also been decided by the same government only after ascertaining their respective population in rural and urban areas. In fact, the Puducherry Government was one among the first few in the country which came forward to provide reservation to OBCs in local body elections, Mr. Ramadass said.

Mr. Ramadass wondered why the 2019 G.O. should be rescinded when nobody had raised an objection or gone to courts and a Commission was constituted. Rescinding its own G.O. without any Cabinet consultation has undermined the sanctity of the government itself and instilled an impression that there will be no reservation to OBCs in the local body elections, provoking another petition in the High Court, he said. Besides, the terms of reference is also silent on reservation of wards to STs, Most Backward Classes (MBCs), Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) and Economically weaker sections (EWSs) leaving room in future for anyone to petition the court, he said.

Mr. Ramadass wanted the Lieutenant Governor to be firm-handed and stop the affront to the Constitution by the ruling political class as these "champions of Statehood demanding more powers unto themselves, cannot deny powers to the lower layer of democracy and keep it under suspended animation.”

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