CM Eknath Shinde is safeguarding Maratha interests, but his two deputies have distanced themselves from the issue.
The politics in Maharashtra over Maratha reservation has reached a climax with both Deputy Chief Ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, despite being in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar Nagar, choosing not to visit Maratha agitator Manoj Jarange Patil in Jalna district.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Friday held a meeting with representatives of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Nomadic Tribes at the Sahyadri Guest House. Shinde was accompanied by Deputy Chief Ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar as well as senior ministers and officials.
Representatives from these segments put forth their demands in the meeting. After the meeting, the Chief Minister asserted that the reservation of OBC will not be touched while giving quota to the Maratha community.
The OBC leadership has made its stand clear before the government in long and marathon discussions that they should be given reservation under economic weaker section (EWS) category.
Even as the Maratha reservation issue has continued to hog headlines, Chief Minister Shinde has emerged as the Maratha leader safeguarding the interests of the community, while his two deputies have strategically distanced themselves from the issue. Dy CM Ajit Pawar has maintained silence, while Fadnavis avoided visiting the agitation site at Antarvali-Sarati in Jalna district.
Maratha activist Jarange Patil, who was on indefinite strike, ended his fast after CM Shinde visited him. The condition set by Jarange was that CM Shinde and both Dy CMs should be present while withdrawing the fast, but Ajit Pawar cancelled his tour at the last moment.
Just 70 km from the protest site, Fadnavis visited the striking agitators from the OBC community in Nagpur and assured them that their share of reservation would not be touched. OBCs are in no mood to listen and are protesting against the government’s likely decision to award Kunbi community certificates (in OBC category) to Marathas of the Marathwada region. Fadnavis’ move has come as a surprise for many in political circles.
Fadnavis kept himself away for a couple of reasons. First, he is being held responsible for the lathi-charge on Maratha protestors on 1 September after which Fadnavis was criticised by the Opposition and Jarange Patil harshly. Second, the government’s likely decision to award Kunbi certificates has created unrest among the OBCs , which comprises the BJP’s traditional vote bank. The BJP flourishing in Vidarbha is mainly dependant on OBC votes. Hence, it is quite evident that Fadnavis has to side with the OBCs. Despite being a Maratha, Ajit Pawar has kept a low profile on this issue.
As a strategy, Pawar’s dream is to become the chief minister of Maharashtra and he had already made this clear after taking oath as Dy CM for the third time after joining hands with the BJP. This is in anticipation of Eknath Shinde and his team getting disqualified, a scenario that would pave the way for him in coming days; as the hearing on the issue will begin on 6 October, he cannot hurt other communities, including the Dhangars who are in large numbers in his own constituency Baramati near Pune. He feels that Jarange Patil is resorting to arm-twisting tactics after the lathi-charge.
CM Shinde has already appointed a 20-member committee under the leadership of Justice Sandeep Shinde; the committee comprises under-secretaries and deputy secretaries of the Maharashtra government assisting Justice Shinde. The committee has to submit a report on the Maratha reservation demand within a month. Jarange Patil has given 40 days from the day he ended his 17-day long hunger strike. Shinde Sena feels that the demands are justified and will continue pushing for quota which is not being encouraged by BJP with Ajit Pawar maintaining silence.