The Maharashtra government’s plan to grant 20 per cent reservation to the Maratha community in education and employment is unlikely to get the sanction from the National Commission for Other Backward Castes.
The state government had earlier accepted the recommendations of a panel headed by Industries Minister Narayan Rane, which came up with the quota formula.
However, a Supreme Court order mandates that reservations should not exceed 51 per cent. The government’s decision to allow 20 per cent quota for Marathas in addition to already existing 51 per cent will certainly be legally challenged, sources said.
“The government knows it cannot enforce the report before polls,” sources in the CMO said.
A senior official said, “The report is a compilation of facts hurriedly collected with an eye on elections, which cannot explain why Marathas are socially and educationally backward. It does not take into account the criteria for a community to be called backward, which are social or economic discrimination or the tag of untouchability.”
“Between 2004 and 2010, three similar attempts to push for reservations for the Marathas under OBC category was dismissed by the national commission. Even the Mandal Commission had rejected the state’s demand. The state’s commission for backwards headed by Justice R M Bapat too had rejected the idea,” officials said.
However, Industries Minister Narayan Rane, who headed the panel that has recommended the reservations, justified the move. “Our findings are based on ground realities to establish why they should be given quota in employment and education.”
The BJP is treading cautiously.
Vinod Tawde (BJP), a member of the Rane committee, said, “The move is justified. But it becomes meaningless without a proper survey to substantiate the facts.”
State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis said, “It is political hypocrisy. The government knows the report cannot withstand the legal and constitutional test. But at the same time, they want to convey their intent of supporting the reservation to consolidate electoral fortunes in 2014 polls.”
The debate has also begun in Congress and the NCP.
A Congress cabinet minister says, “Successive reports in the past have observed that 55 per cent of the political representation in state is of the Maratha community. They also have 60 to 70 per cent land holding. Being the ruling class, they control 50 per cent of educational institutions and cooperatives.”
The Maratha community, which constitutes 30 per cent of the state population, is a dominant force politically and economically.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Harshvardhan Patil said there was no question of disturbing the existing reservations for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and OBCs.
PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who is also a prominent OBC leader, too warned against any dilution in the OBC quota.
Senior Congress leader Ratnakar Mahajan called the decision “unfortunate”, saying it defeated the very purpose of positive discrimination enunciated by Indian Constitution. “Even B R Ambedkar had indicated that if the reservation exceeded 50 per cent, it would kill the competition in open category.”