The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on Monday passed a resolution urging the Centre to provide the 2011 census data to enable the State Backward Class Commission to prepare an empirical data of the OBC population, in a bid to restore political reservations for its members in local bodies.
The resolution, moved by NCP leader and state Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, was passed by a voice vote amid an uproar by members of the opposition BJP . The House also saw two adjournments over the issue.
The BJP members trooped into the well of the House and shouted slogans against the state government, as Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said the resolution was "politically motivated and will serve no purpose".
He said the apex court had asked the Backward Class Commission to conduct an empirical inquiry to ascertain political backwardness of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The BJP leader accused the state government of doing nothing on what the court had sought.
Fadnavis said the 2011 census data had "eight crore mistakes", while the (census) data from Maharashtra had "69 lakh mistakes". Hence, it was not given, he said.
To this, Bhujbal asked, "If there are mistakes in the data, why wasn't the rectification and correction done? Why were you sitting over the data for six years. If the data is used for central schemes like Ujjwala gas, why isn't it being given for the OBC (quota issue)." The 2021 census has not begun due to COVID-19, then how can the state government begin an empirical inquiry for the OBC population? he asked.
The minister said when Fadnavis was the chief minister, he wrote to the NITI Ayog on August 1, 2019, seeking the census data.
"Why are you playing with words like empirical inquiry or data? We are pursuing the demand for census data with the Centre.
The Supreme Court has asked the State Backward Class Commission to conduct an empirical inquiry, which can be done only after the census data is provided," he said.
When presiding officer Bhaskar Jadhav put the resolution for vote, BJP members Girish Mahajan and Sanjay Kute climbed the Speaker's podium and argued with the Chair. The Chair subsequently adjourned the House for 10 minutes.
Later, when the House reassembled, Sunil Prabhu (Shiv Sena) and Nawab Malik (NCP) alleged that BJP members "misbehaved" with the presiding officer and manhandled him in the Speaker's chamber.
"Action should be taken against them," they said. Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal then adjourned the House for another 15 minutes. Later, speaking to reporters outside the House, Fadnavis said BJP members had not misbehaved with the presiding officer.
"Since we exposed the falsehood of the government, some new twist is being given so that the House doesn't function. Bhujbal has not given factual information in the House. The central government hasn't used census data for its schemes," he said.
The Supreme Court earlier this year quashed quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in local bodies after observing that the total number of seats earmarked for various communities, including the SCs sand STs, should not exceed 50 per cent of its total strength.
Earlier in the day, Fadnavis said the SC had asked for an empirical inquiry (into the issue of OBCs population) through the State Backward Class Commission.
"The apex court has not asked for census data. The resolution is time pass, face saver and misleading, and will not yield anything.
But, we will support the resolution as we want to stand by the OBCs," the BJP leader said.