Even though protest rallies by the Maratha community across Maharashtra have so far been apolitical, the Congress Tuesday targeted the BJP government over the row. Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan said the government machinery was responsible for the unrest among the community. “The present regime has done nothing to address the demand for Maratha reservation. While we have also been pushing for a loan waiver for farmers, the government has been insensitive towards it.”
Chavan, a Maratha leader, added, “The government should learn lessons at least now. The community’s demand should be considered on an urgent basis.” He also demanded that the perpetrators of the brutal gangrape and murder of a minor in Ahmednagar’s Kopardi village in July, believed to have triggered the mass scale protests, should be urgently brought to book.
Earlier, Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, too, had lashed out at the government over the protests.
The Congress leader, however, adopted a cautions stand on the community’s demand for a review of the atrocities Act. “There is no demand for scrapping the Act, and we won’t support any such demand. But there have been certain instances where local political rivalries have resulted in the Act being misused. The number of convictions under the Act (they are fewer in number) itself speaks volumes. But even in this case, the state government’s enforcing agencies are to be blamed for the failure to curb such misuse,” he said.
Incidentally, Congressman Haribhau Rathod, who is from the backward class, has upped the ante against those opposing the Act. He has joined hands with leaders from NDA ally Republican Party of India (Athavale) for “counter rallies” in this regard. Chavan, meanwhile, alleged that certain sections were making attempts to thwart the Maratha community protests by giving it a “political colour”.
Withdraw drought cess
The Congress also tried to play the middle-class card, appealing to the government to withdraw the “drought cess” imposed on petrol and diesel since October 2015. “Barring a few districts, rains have been good across the state. There is no reason to continue with the levy now,” said Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan. The government has collected more than Rs 1,600 crore through the levy meant to be used for drought mitigation measures.