- A Better Model/ On the Model Code of Conduct
- Not a Panacea/ On Maratha Demand for Reservations
The Model Code of Conduct (MCC), which sets the guidelines for parties and governments during election campaigns, is well-intentioned but challenging to enforce. Its effectiveness relies heavily on the cooperation of parties and governments and the watchfulness of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
- Indian Constitution
- Transparency & Accountability
- Representation of People’s Act
The ECI must act independently as the arbiter of election code breaches. Analyse in the context of recent violations of the Model Code of Conduct. (15 marks, 250 words).
- Recently, the ECI has applied the MCC against several political figures, including Assam Chief Minister, Delhi unit president of the Bharatiya Janata Party and many other notable leaders.
- In a significant move, the ECI revoked permission for the Telangana government to disburse cash to farmers under the Rythu Bandhu scheme before the November 30 vote.
- This decision was based on the ECI’s finding that statements made by State Finance Minister T. Harish Rao were in violation of the MCC.
- Interestingly, the Congress government in Karnataka has received a notice for issuing advertisements that may influence voters in Telangana.
- Notices were also served to the Gandhis for allegedly using derogatory language against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, prompted by complaints from the BJP.
Issues in the working of ECI:
- This compilation of actions taken by the ECI may create an impression of impartiality, but there are unaddressed issues that deserve attention.
- Complaints from the Congress against the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, involving charges similar to or even more serious than those against opposition leaders, have been overlooked.
- The ECI has not offered a response to a Congress complaint alleging that the Enforcement Directorate attempted to influence the outcome in Chhattisgarh by publicly accusing the present Chief Minister amid elections, of receiving kickbacks from a fugitive.
- Regardless of the merits of this specific case, the utilization of investigations by central or state agencies for political ends during an election can be viewed as unfair interference.
- There is skepticism about whether the ECI has demonstrated its capability to act impartially and objectively.
The government initiative to establish the supremacy of the executive in appointing members of the ECI raises even more concern in this context. Under the proposed arrangement, the ruling party at the Centre would have sole control over the composition of the ECI. This, in turn can raise concerns about the prospects of free and fair elections in India.
In a clear indication of substantial socioeconomic changes occurring in various regions of India, there have been calls for reservation from communities that are traditionally considered politically influential and are not conventionally categorized as “backward.” The demand for reservation by the Maratha community in Maharashtra is a notable example.
- Judgements and Cases
- Government Policies & Interventions
- Welfare Schemes
- Issues Relating to Development
Highlighting the present status of Maratha Community in Maharashtra, provide a rationale behind their demands for reservation. (10 Marks, 150 words).
Status of Marathas:
- Historically, this community has held significant representation in political positions, with over 35% of MLAs since 1967 and 12 out of 18 Chief Ministers in the state.
- Additionally, due to substantial land ownership, controlling more than 75% of cultivable land in the state, and a dominant presence in sugar factories, the Marathas have traditionally held economic influence in rural areas.
- Data from the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) in 2011-12 revealed that Marathas had a per capita consumption expenditure only slightly lower than that of Brahmins.
- Moreover, poverty incidence among Marathas was comparable to other forward communities and significantly lower than that of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, marginally lower than that of Other Backward Classes.
- This context explains why the Supreme Court, in 2021, invalidated the 16% quota provided under the Socially and Economically Backward Classes for Marathas in jobs and education.
Rationale Behind the Demand for Reservation:
- Yet, understanding this demand is not challenging. Despite their relative dominance, there are notable variations within the Maratha community concerning income and educational achievements.
- According to the IHDS survey, the highest quintile of the community boasted an average per capita income of ₹86,750, while the lowest quintile’s per capita income was only a tenth of this amount.
- This stark disparity, coupled with the predominantly rural nature of livelihoods among the less affluent Marathas amid the enduring agrarian crisis in the state, has fueled resentment and the call for reservations.
Recent Developments in this Regard:
- In response to the recent agitation, the Eknath Shinde government yielded to the demands and established a committee, led by Justice Sandeep Shinde, to expedite the issuance of Kunbi certificates to all Marathas.
- This move would enable them to benefit from reservations as part of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
- However, tensions have arisen with OBC leaders, including those within the ruling coalition, demanding the government to disband the committee.
To comprehensively evaluate the implementation of reservations, its outcomes, and to determine which groups merit it based on constitutional provisions, a thorough socio-economic survey across states is imperative. Additionally, it’s crucial to recognize that reservations, given the shrinking proportion of government jobs in overall employment, cannot serve as a sole solution for the upliftment of economically disadvantaged individuals within the Maratha community.