After staging silent rallies attended by lakhs of people across the state, the Kranti Maratha Morcha is planning a silent candlelight march on July 13 in Mumbai. This would be followed by a Maha-rally on August 9 to press for demands of the Maratha community. An official of the Kranti Maratha Morcha said, “The character of both these rallies will be the same as the 57 silent morchas staged across 36 districts of Maharashtra last year.”
The candlelight march in Mumbai would once again highlight the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Kopardi and the failure of the system to award death sentence to the three who committed the heinous crime, said a Morcha member. Morcha coordinator Virendra Pawar told The Indian Express, “While the July 13 rally will confine to the Kopardi killing, the August 9 rally would raise a charter of 22 demands of Marathas, including reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.”
While some Morcha members claimed that the rallies were non-political and aimed to bat for the rights of Marathas, others were looking at the rallies as a tool for the opposition parties to stay relevant. Highly placed sources in the Morcha said there was growing pressure within the Congress and the NCP to consolidate the Maratha issues to counter the state government.
Some leaders within the opposition Congress and the NCP believe that the Rs 34,000-crore farm loan waiver for 89 lakh farmers would be a setback to opposition politics. The rallies are being revived to keep Maratha politics alive. Another reason that has the Congress-NCP worried is the comparison between Fadnavis’ loan waiver of Rs 34,000 crore (2017) with the Rs 6,900-crore waiver in 2008 and Rs 4008-crore loan waiver in 2009 during the Congress-NCP regime.
The opposition had been claiming that Sharad Pawar as Union agriculture minister had given the biggest loan waiver for farmers in Maharashtra. The Fadnavis government has surpassed that figure now. Sources said that the rallies to keep Maratha politics alive was likely to create a wedge within the BJP-Shiv Sena, which could help the opposition parties in making a comeback in rural Maharashtra.
A former Congress minister said, “However, we will have to ensure the Maratha community is not fragmented.” However, according to Morcha coordinator Virendra Pawar, “The focus of our rallies will be to promote the rights of the Maratha community. We are not going to allow politics to dominate our larger social agenda.”
Condemning the killing of the 14-year-old girl in Kopardi in Ahmednagar district, a Morcha leader said, “In 57 rallies across the state in the past one year, lakhs of Marathas came on the streets to participate, thus compelling the government to take action against the culprits.” A senior NCP leader said, “You cannot deny the fact that Marathas constitute 33 per cent of the state’s population. They have always been the dominant political force…”
BJP political managers, however, saw no reason for the agitation to be revived as the government had acceded to most demands. A Morcha leader said, “The state government and the party have supported the Maratha reservation. The government has sanctioned Rs 10,000 crore for Maratha students pursuing professional studies. The agriculture reforms have met almost all the recommendations made by M S Swaminathan Commission. The state is in favour of higher remuneration for farmers.”