Uncertainty looms large over the elections for rural local bodies, including gram panchayats, mandal parishads and zilla parishads, in Telangana.

While Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy has hinted at conducting these elections shortly after announcement of the Lok Sabha election results, officials indicated that the elections were unlikely to be held before August-September as BC reservations were yet to be finalised.

The term of gram panchayats in the State expired on February 1 this year and the State government had appointed special officers in their place. The term of the MPTCs and ZPTCs will end on July 3.

Despite the lack of a clear timeline, the Chief Minister’s signal that local body elections could occur in June has accelerated preparations.

The elections were initially scheduled for January, but were postponed due to last year’s Assembly elections, followed by the recent Lok Sabha polls in the State. Currently, special officers are governing gram panchayats as the terms of elected sarpanches and ward members have ended.

Revanth Reddy is said to be of the view that completing these elections by July end would allow the government to refocus on governance and welfare initiatives.

However, the Supreme Court orders mandate the State government to finalise BC reservations for local bodies before conducting elections.

Though the previous BRS government constituted the BC Commission to submit a report to finalise reservations for backward classes, sources said the Commission required at least another two months to complete the process and submit its report.

Further complicating the matter, various organisations representing the BCs are demanding that the Congress implement its electoral promise of reserving 42 percent of

seats in local bodies to them. Currently, BCs have 22 percent reservation in local bodies.

Additionally, they also want the Congress to sub-categorised reservation for castes under the BC category.The Panchayat Raj (PR) Act, 2018, mandates that reservations for gram panchayat elections should be in force for 10 years.

If Revanth Reddy wants to hike the reservations, the elections might be delayed as the PR Act has to be amended and the government will have to get fresh data on backward castes which might delay the elections. It would also overshoot the cap of 50 per cent on reservations which needs the Parliament’s approval.

“Hence, the best option for the State government to conduct the local bodies elections immediately is to cap BC reservations at 25 per cent considering the existing reservations for SCs and STs in rural local bodies.

Otherwise, the elections are unlikely to be completed before this year end,” a senior official in the State Election Commission observed.Meanwhile, the Chief Minister’s recent comments about holding local body elections immediately after the Lok Sabha elections have prompted the State Election Commission (SEC) to begin preliminary preparations.

The Commission is preparing for the elections, including determining the number of polling centre, ballot papers, and ballot boxes needed. This process must be conducted via ballot papers, requiring extensive logistical planning.

The SEC would need two-three weeks to fine tune its arrangements before releasing the election notification. It is also yet to receive the latest voters list from the Election Commission of India and also the State government’s orders on BC reservations. based on these reports, the SEC has to finalise the number of wards/divisions and announce reserved seats accordingly.
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