The fire of Maratha reservation refuses to die down in Maharashtra, with silent rallies of thousands of Marathas taking place in different parts of the state and with political heavyweights like Sharad Pawar continuously pitching for them.
The state government under Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis held a high level co-ordination committee meeting for securing its position ahead of 13 October, when the Bombay High Court will hear all the petitions regarding Maratha reservation. Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the petitioner to approach the Bombay High Court for relief in the matter. The government has said it will leave no stone unturned to convince the court about why Maratha reservation is necessary. The recently concluded Bharatiya Janata Party’s State Executive Committee passed a resolution supporting 16% reservation for Marathas in education and jobs, without disturbing the current reservation allocation and without the contravention of the guidelines put forth by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the organisers of Maratha Kranti Morcha told The Sunday Guardian that they are not keen to carry out any morchas in Mumbai, the state capital. This is the first time they have said they are not keen on hitting the streets of Mumbai. Until now it was believed that a Maratha Kranti Morcha (rally) would be organised in the city after Diwali.
“Until now, Maratha Kranti Morchas have taken place in three cities. We now plan to hold these morchas in Kolhapur, Thane, Ratnagiri, Raigad and Nagpur. We will have 32 morchas in the state by the end of this month. We are also in the process of short-listing a delegation at present. It will take stock of the steps taken by the state government to address our concerns,” said Sanjiv Bhor, founder president of Shivprahar Sanghatan. He claimed that over two crore Marathas have hit the streets to participate in the silent morchas until now.
“Has the government done anything at least on paper? We activists have held one meeting in Mumbai. The second meeting will soon be held in Aurangabad. We are in the process of creating consensus among ourselves,” he said. The Maratha Kranti Morcha will be held in the sugarcane lobby-rich Kolhapur on 15 October. It will then be held in Thane a day later.
“We are clear that we want to resolve the issue through dialogue only,” he added.
The government has until now appealed to activists and Maratha political leaders to talk to it and hand it over any additional documentation and new evidence for the issue. When asked if the government or any agency had approached them with this request, he said no. “The CM is speaking only through the media. We have not heard from him. Anyway, we have been working for the community for years, and many of our activists have already submitted all the necessary documents related to Maratha reservation long ago to the government. So there is no question of handing over anything new,” Bhor said.
CM Fadnavis has refused to comment on the issue. A few days ago, he told Doordarshan that his government was committed to give reservation to Marathas. Recently, after holding a Cabinet meeting in Aurangabad after eight years, he reiterated to journalists his commitment towards the cause of the community. He has maintained that the government is serious about the demands of the Maratha community.
However, Maharashtra BJP president Raosaheb Danve invited the protestors to hold talks with the government. “We are taking all efforts to make our case strong. But in case any of them have any different evidence, or have a different point of view, I welcome them to engage with the government. We are open for talks. In fact, we want all stakeholders to hold a conversation with the government,” he said on the sidelines of state executive meeting.
“What is the need for talks?” asked NCP leader Dhananjay Munde. He added, “Whenever Maratha Kranti Morchas have taken place anywhere, the protestors have handed over their demands to the respective district collectors. All the government has to do is to collect those copies. Do you think the collectors would not have conveyed the demands to the government? When the government already has all the details it needs, what is the point of calling for a meeting?”
Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil accused the government of using delay tactics to deal with the issue. “If the government says that it is ready for reservation and that all political parties are on board for the proposal, then what is the problem? Why is the government delaying the decision? It should solve the matter during the coming winter session in Nagpur,” he said. He also accused the government of dragging its feet while conducting the proceedings of the meeting held to decide the course of action for putting forth Maharashtra’s side in the High Court.
State Education Minister Vinod Tawde said that noted lawyer Harish Salve would lead a battery of lawyers to represent Maharashtra in the Bombay High Court. He will argue for the state which is ready with 70 main pointers to submit to the court, Tawde said after the high level State co-ordination committee meeting. It was attended by Cabinet ministers Vinod Tawde and Chandrakant Patil; Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil; Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar and former Advocate General of Maharashtra Ravi Kadam.
“Our government wants to provide reservation for Marathas in jobs and education. We propose to submit 70 documentary evidences to justify our proposal for Maratha reservation. We feel that the Maratha community is backward and economically weak,” Tawde said.
Meanwhile, the BJP State Executive Committee passed a resolution clearing 16% reservation for the Marathas in education and employment, during its meet in Mumbai.