BJP leader and Union Minister for Surface Transport Nitin Gadkari Sunday blamed the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra for not making recommendations to the Centre to include Dhangar (shepherd) community in the Scheduled Tribe category.
At a function to unveil the statue of Ahilyabai Holkar at Churchgate Square in Mumbai, Gadkari said: “The Narendra Modi government at the Centre is committed to honouring the demands of the Dhangar community. But it is mandatory for the state government to send the proposal.”
At present, the Dhangar community enjoys a quota of 3.5 per cent in jobs and education under the Vimukti Jati Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) category in Maharashtra.
The community, which has a sizeable presence in parts of Western Maharashtra and Marathwada, has been demanding inclusion in the ST category for over a decade. Ahead of the crucial Assembly polls, community leaders have raised the pitch following the state government’s move to provide reservation to Marathas and Muslims.
The Congress and the NCP are in a bind over the move since tribal communities are equally vocal against the demand. On Saturday, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had tried to pass the buck to the Centre, saying while the state was committed it was for the Centre to do the needful.
Gadkari said both the BJP and the Union government supported the demand. “The demand that the community is making is not a new one. As the opposition leader in the Legislative Council previously, I have raised the demand on several occasions, and so have other BJP leaders, including late Gopinath Munde,” he said.
“While the Centre is committed to honouring the demand, it would require the state government to make a recommendation for amending constitutional provisions, which is yet to be made,” he said. “I have read the criticism the chief minister has meted out to the BJP and the government in media, but first the state should honour its own commitment. We will do the rest,” Gadkari added.
The Union minister was addressing the community at a function organised by BJP MLA and Dhangar representative Prakash Shendge.
Community leaders presented a charter of demands to Gadkari following his speech.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who unveiled the bust, said she would do everything in her official capacity to forward the demand.
“The reservation demand is fair and necessary,” she said, urging leaders to also strive for “upliftment of the community”.
Local Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said the party was in favour of the demand.
Colaba MLA Annie Shekhar of the Congress was also present at the function.