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Infighting in Maharashtra Cabinet over Maratha Reservation

Infighting in Maharashtra Cabinet over Maratha Reservation


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Jan 29: With the Maharashtra government conceding all the demands of the Maratha reservation quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil, the Other Backward Classes have started feeling deprived apprehending that the Maratha quota could be eating into the OBC reservation.

Worried over OBC backlash, the Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said the BJP would not let any injustice befall the OBC as long as it remained in power in Maharashtra.

Mr Fadnavis’ statement came in direct response to the concerns expressed by his ally in the State cabinet – Maharashtra Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (Ajit Pawar) faction leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who has alleged that granting a quota to the Marathas under the OBC community would be eating into the OBC reservation pie.

“It is the view of both CM Eknath Shinde and myself that the rights of the OBC communities must be safeguarded. As long as the BJP is part of the State government, we will not permit any injustice to the OBCs. In case a situation does arise that we cannot safeguard their rights, I will myself go and talk to my superiors,” Mr Fadnavis said.

Despite the Maharashtra government last week assenting to all demands of Jarange-Patil, sparks continued to fly between the activist and Mr Bhujbal, a prominent OBC community leader. While Mr Jarange-Patil, speaking in Beed district on Monday, warned that he would challenge the Mandal Commission reservation process itself if Mr Bhujbal went too far, the latter reiterated his accusation of the activist trying to secure a quota for the Marathas through the back door.

Mr Bhujbal also threw down the gauntlet before his own party, the NCP (Ajit Pawar) faction and the Eknath Shinde-led ‘Mahayuti’ government, demanding to know whether they would support him on the issue. Responding to this, Mr Fadnavis said, “I will personally speak to Mr Bhujbal and listen to all his grievances. In case any injustice is being done to the OBC community, we will certainly take note of it. Prima facie, our view is clear that the decision [on the Maratha quota] issue that we have taken is not ad hoc. It is merely to facilitate ease of reservation for those Marathas whose proofs have been submitted.”

Mr Fadnavis further stressed that the government had taken “a balanced view” on the matter and was ensuring that “no injustice” was being done to the OBCs while expediting the process for granting reservation to the Marathas as well. The Maharashtra government had issued a draft notification on January 27 recognising that blood relatives of those Maratha community members, for whom Kunbi OBC caste records had been found, would be given Kunbi OBC certificates as well. The declaration met with vehement opposition by Mr Bhujbal and other OBC leaders.

The verbal slanging match between Mr Bhujbal and Mr Jarange-Patil is threatening to cause a rift within the state cabinet with Mr Bhujbal warning that he would keep up his fight on behalf of the OBCs and claimed that he had the support of crores of community members not just in Maharashtra, but across the country.

Speaking in Kolhapur on Monday, Ajit Pawar said he, along with Mr Fadnavis and CM Shinde would be sitting together and speaking with Mr Bhujbal on the issue. Responding to Mr Bhujbal’s statement that the NCP and the government has to decide whether it was with him, Mr Pawar said “it was an internal matter.”

Mr Bhujbal on Monday said the Maharashtra government’s blanket acceptance of Mr Jarange-Patil’s demands potentially signalled the end of OBC reservation. “It appears that all our hard-fought reservation has come to an end. Even if a Maratha has a tractor, they are now trying to show he is a labourer. They are issuing OBC certificates to anyone and everyone,” Mr Bhujbal said.

Mr Jarange-Patil lashed out at Mr Bhujbal, warning that he would challenge the Mandal Commission and the very basis of OBC reservation if the latter tried to thwart the Maratha reservation process. Mr Jarange-Patil further appealed to scholars to put forth their suggestions in writing before the government for a strong law on the reservation issue. “A law for the Maratha quota is underway. People have been asked to give their suggestions on it in the next 15 days. Scholars from the Maratha community should write their views and send them to the government. This will help to strengthen the Maratha quota law,” he suggested.




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