The Maratha community rallies which are gaining momentum across the state have heralded a competition between the districts to score political points. Some Congress-NCP leaders told The Indian Express that every district was trying to set a benchmark to beat the records of previous rallies in terms of number of people and fund raised.
A former Congress-NCP minister said, “At a meeting held in Ahmednagar, we were given a target of 12 to 15 lakh people to be assembled at the rally. We have collected Rs 65 lakh for the rally and are likely to get more funds in the coming weeks. The rally at Ahmednagar is on September 23.” The buzz is that the rally at Nanded and Pune will beat the Nagar rally in terms of number of people and funds raised.
Whether it is Kolhapur, Karad, Pune, Baramati, Hingoli, Nanded or Solapur, the local leaders are engaging in a major competition to outdo the others in staging huge rallies. A senior Congress leader, on the condition of anonymity, said, “While I associate with the concerns of the Maratha community, what has got me worried is the ugly competition and politics. At this moment, the theme is: ‘My Maratha rally is bigger than yours’.”
What appeared to be spontaneous anger against the Kopardi rape incident of July 13, is panning into a political movement for the consolidation of the Marathas. Local community organisations like Maratha Kranti Morcha have indicated that the Mumbai rally would be the biggest of all rallies. The target is to mobilise 50 lakh Marathas, not only from Maharashtra, but across the country as a show of strength. The final dates are still being worked out.
A Maratha morcha volunteer said, “The emphasis on mobilisation of the Marathas has a twin purpose. One is to show we are a power which cannot be ignored. Secondly, it also reflects on the hold of the established leadership in their respective districts.”
Although every rally is faceless with the top leadership of Congress and NCP keeping away from the stage, the local leaders know who is controlling the show. The volunteer said, “The Maratha community was always divided on sub-castes. For the first time, we are getting everybody on board.” However, to avoid backlash of the poor Marathas against the rich, the organisers are using the Dalit/OBC card to keep the community together.
The protests are going to continue till October. Apart from the Kopardi rape incident, the issues being raised include the scrapping of the atrocities Act which the Marathas fear would be misused by the Dalits and reviving the Maratha reservation, including special quota in education and employment.