The Maratha rallies that created ripples across the state leading to caste polarisation have become a non-factor in the zilla parishad and municipal corporation elections across Maharashtra. The issue which finds a connect with people cutting across caste and region is development.
At Satara NCP office, a group of young graduates who are preparing for their competitive examination express disenchantment with petty politics of Maratha reservation. Santosh Chavan (23) explains, “Today, we want industries and good roads. In absence of industries, we have to explore other cities for decent jobs.”
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Across Sangli, Solapur or Satara, the Generation Next within the Maratha community admitted that reservation was an emotive issue. But what is of greater concern is the development of the villages and cities in their region. On August 9, the first Maratha rally was held at Aurangabad to protest against the brutal rape and murder of a young girl in Kopardi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The agitation snowballed into a series of rallies across 36 districts of Maharashtra. The central theme of the Maratha agitation was a demand for reservation for the community in jobs and education. And the second important demand was to check the abuse of the Atrocities Act.
In the last six months, Dalits and Other Backward Communities also joined hands to counter the Maratha agitation. The Dalits and OBCs came together to demand that the Atrocities Act should not be scrapped and that their reservation quota should remain untouched. What is the reason for Maratha agitation becoming redundant in the zilla parishad and panchayat samiti polls?
Maratha Kranti Morcha chief Rajendra Kondane said,
“The agitation elicited support from Maratha leaders who represented all political parties. Nobody was opposing the reservation. Therefore, it is a non-issue in the polls.”
However, a senior Opposition leader from the community told The Indian Express, “Initially, when the agitation peaked between August and December 2016, we expected it would help the opposition to corner the ruling BJP in Maharashtra. But the government’s initiative to extend sops to the community in education and take ahead reservation diffused the agitation.”
According to Sachin Gaikwad who was pro-active in the Maratha rallies in Solapur, “The chief minister’s development plank has struck a positive note with the people across caste and region. They see a ray of hope in Fadnavis.”
“Across western Maharashtra and Marathwada we had political stalwarts from Congress and NCP for last six decades. But the development in infrastructure that would provide sustainable agriculture or employment in industries remains a far cry,” Gaikwad said.
The caste polarisation across Latur, Beed, Osmanabad, Parbhani, Hingoli, Aurangabad, Nanded, Jalna that led to massive Dalit/OBC rallies also fizzled out.
Sanjay Shinde from Aurangabad believes, “The polarisation of Maratha versus Dalits/OBC was confined to just Maratha rallies and Atrocities Act. Once the tempers were down, people set aside their differences and got back to normal life.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Republican Party of India general secretary Raja Sarvade, “The development plank has overtaken the caste politics in zilla and panchayat samiti polls. When it comes to issuing tickets, every political party definitely considers caste and community factors to consolidate its own base. But people will prefer those who deliver development in their respective region.”