Can the development plank break the caste conflict in Maharashtra? Can the development plank bring about social engineering of the forward and backward communities which have been increasingly polarised by the controversial Maratha reservation politics in Maharashtra? These are the questions staring the Devendra Fadnavis state government.
The root cause of all unrest in the state is the cry for more development to enable people to cope up with the growing challenges of urbanisation.
A week ago, the chief minister announced a Rs 49, 248 crore package for the development of the backward Marathwada region where the Maratha rallies received maximum support from the once politically dominant community.
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The Maratha rallies demands are reservation for the community in education and employment and scrapping of the Atrocities Act which it believes is being misused by the Dalit against them.
At the end of two and half months, the main organiser of the Maratha rallies, the Kranti Maratha Morcha, has decised to put on hold its Mumbai rally till December, with an ultimatum that government should fulfill their demands for Maratha reservation in education and employment.
The Maratha’s assertion at the grass-roots level in almost every district has set a counter political reaction. The Dalits and Other Backward Communities (OBCs) are silently consolidating to make common cause against any dilution of their existing quota — Scheduled Caste 10.8 per cent and OBC 27 per cent, respectively. The scheduled tribes enjoy 8 per cent reservation.
On October 10, at Newasa taluka in Ahmednagar district, a rally took place where OBCs and Dalits came together for a show of unity. Similar reports of Dalit/ OBC joining hands are pouring in across districts of Marathwada, Western Maharashtra and the Vidarbha region.
The Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) president Prakash Ambedkar said, “Yes, the process of polarisation of Dalits and OBCs has already begun. Dalit/OBC unity is to protest against the growing demand to scrap the Atrocities Act by the Marathas.” He added, “The Dalits/OBCs also want to ensure that their reservation is not affected by the Maratha’s quota.”
In a candid admission, a Kranti Maratha Morcha leader on condition of anonymity said, “Maratha unity is bound to lead to some political upheaval. And it is natural that Dalits/OBCs who enjoy reservation will unite to ensure their quota is not affected.”
Now, the state government’s attempt is to cater to the root cause that led to the unrest amongst the Marathas and take remedial measures. And similarly, also address the apprehensions of the Dalits/OBCs.
Not surprisingly, the Marathawada package which was announced by the Fadnavis at Aurangabad, weighs in favour of rural sectors –irrigation, agriculture and allies industries and housing. The skill development centres at every district is another initiative to tap the educated youths for specialised technical training and open new avenues of employment.
At the Maratha rallies a sizable section was of youths from rural Maharashtra who complained against the failure of established cooperative sectors and education barons (controlled by majority Congress and NCP leaders) to provide them affordable education or job in their institutions.