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Cong MLAs suspended from Gujarat Assembly for day after chaos over OBC quota

Gandhinagar: Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani and around nine Congress legislators were suspended for a day from the Gujarat Legislative Assembly for rushing into the well of the House and shouting slogans to demand a discussion on the OBC reservation Thursday, the last day of the session.

Some of these MLAs were even evicted by marshals as they refused to leave the House despite suspension. Following the suspension and eviction, all the remaining Congress MLAs staged a brief walkout, as they returned after some time to take part in the discussion on bills.

When the House was discussing a bill regarding the Gujarat National Law University, senior Congress MLA Baldevji Thakor suddenly demanded a discussion on reservation quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the panchayat bodies.

After Speaker Nimaben Acharya did not accept Thakor’s demand, Jignesh Mevani rushed towards the well. He was followed by Thakor and some other MLAs, including Vimal Chudasama, Raghu Desai and Vikram Madam.

While nearly 10 MLAs sat in the well of the House, other legislators of the party, who came with placards, raised “Give OBCs, 27 per cent reservation” and “We demand caste-based census” slogans.

Irked over this sudden protest by the Congress, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajendra Trivedi, urged the speaker to take action against the “unruly” Congress MLAs.

The speaker then ordered suspension of those nine to 10 MLAs, including Thakor and Mevani, who were in the well. Since some of them refused to go out, marshals evicted them using force.

Talking to reporters afterwards, senior MLA Amit Chavda said OBCs must be given 27 per cent quota in local panchayat bodies because they comprise more than 50 per cent of the state’s population.

“We have learnt that officials are providing false data about the OBC population in the state. This will further eliminate OBCs from the electoral system. Thus, apart from the 27 per cent quota, we also demand a caste-based census before the quota is finalised. But the BJP government was not ready for a discussion in the Assembly on this very important issue,” Chavda alleged.

The BJP government in the state had formed a dedicated commission in July to collect and analyse data about the nature and implications of backwardness in local bodies, an exercise necessary for fixing OBC quota in panchayat polls.

The commission, formed as per the directives of the Supreme Court, is headed by retired Gujarat High Court Judge K S Jhaveri.

Earlier this month, delegations from the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress had submitted representations to the panel, which was formed to look into the nature and implications of backwardness in local bodies to decide on reservation for OBCs.

Under the Gujarat Panchayats Act, 10 per cent seats are reserved for the OBC community in gram panchayat elections.

On Wednesday, Mevani and 14 Congress legislators had been suspended for a day from the Gujarat Assembly for unruly behaviour and evicted by marshals.

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