A bill that proposed reservation for Marathas in educational institutions and public services was on Tuesday passed by the Maharashtra Assembly, but the Devendra Fadnavis government’s decision to withhold a similar legislation for Muslims evoked sharp criticism from the Opposition, which accused the BJP-Shiv Sena combine of showing their “inherent prejudice” towards the minorities.
The development lead to massive protests in the House with Congress and NCP members staging walkouts.
The passage of Maratha quota bill in the Assembly and the Council would clear the way for 16 per cent reservation for economically and socially backward among the community in educational institutions and government jobs in the state. The government said it did not bring the bill for Muslim reservation as the matter was pending with the Bombay High Court. Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, however, hit out at the ruling alliance, saying it was lacking political will.
NCP said the government was pushing the RSS agenda by not bringing the bill seeking reservation for Muslims.
In November, the Bombay HC had stayed the decision to give any reservation to Marathas in government jobs and education. It had, however, allowed the state to continue with five per cent reservation for Muslims in educational institutions, but not in jobs.
The ordinance on Muslims quota was brought by the pervious government just before Assembly election and it lapsed on Tuesday.
The top leaders of Congress and NCP pleaded that government should reissue the ordinance to facilitate concessions to Muslims in education. Vikhe-Patil said, “Today, the old ordinance would lapse. And it is evident that new students would be deprived of the benefits in the education.”
The Chief Minister, however, said: “My government is committed to the welfare of Muslims. We have to take the legal opinion from the Advocate General as Bombay High Court has struck down reservation to Muslims in jobs while upholding in education. This has resulted in major dilemma and challenged in the apex court. The government is not against the reservation but wants to ensure that decision should withstand the legally.”
Accusing the Opposition of playing vote bank politics, he said, “My government is not against the reservation for Muslims. But the Bombay High Court while upholding reservation for Muslims in education has opposed the same for jobs… Once we take the legal opinion of the AG, we will act.”
Earlier, several Congress, NCP, Samajwadi Party, MIM members vehemently questioned the BJP-Sena combine for withholding the Muslim quota bill. Ameen Patel (Congress), Chhagan Bhujbal (NCP), Dilip Walse-Patil (NCP), Waris Pathan (MIM), Abu Azmi (SP) and Jitendra Avadh appealed, “At least, the government could bring the bill to facilitate reservation to Muslims in education. Or at least bring a new ordinance so that students are not deprived of the privilages.”
Fadnavis repeatedly stated, “All the students who have thus far availed the concessions in education would be protected. And that once the AG’s views taken they would move ahead.”
Maratha Reservation Bill
A bill to provide for reservation of seats for admission in educational institutions in the state and of appointments or posts in public services under the state to educationally and socially backward category (ESBC) in the state of Maharashtra for their advancement and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The ordinance was promulgated by the governor of Maharashtra on July 9, 2014. The Bill is intended to replace the said Ordinance by an Act of the state legislature.