The Maratha Seva Sangh (MSS) has demanded the inclusion of the Maratha community within Other Backward Class (OBC) category to lend it Constitutional and legal sanctity.
MSS founder leader and president Puroshattam Khedekar told The Indian Express, “We feel Constitutional, legal, logical, final and only solution for Maratha reservation is their inclusion in present OBC state list and within 52 per cent quota, the maximum permissible within state power.”
The prolonged legal battle has led to growing unrest among the Maratha community. Instead, Maratha organisations have started exploring ways to put an end to this complex reservation issue. The MSS has started a silent campaign reaching out to various Maratha leaders within the ruling Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP and opposition BJP. A section of Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM) key coordinators has also shown their willingness to discuss the issue arguing that through some give and take, a viable formula can be worked out.
The state government has already moved two applications urging the CJI to set up a larger Constitutional Bench to expedite hearing on Maratha reservation.
Explaining the reason for seeking inclusion within OBC, Khedekar said, “The state backward class commissions are formed with limited jurisdiction to decide OBC category castes as directed by the state in writing. Now socially and educationally means OBC under Article 340. SEBC category is created by 102 amendment but its operation is not clear as yet as it comes under new Article 342 A.” While stating that only way to safeguard Maratha quota would be to bring them within OBC ambit, Khedekar argued, “The 2011 census shows 34 per cent OBCs in Maharashtra. Whereas, OBCs enjoy 32 per cent reservation out of the total 52 per cent already implemented in Maharashtra. This is not justified. So reworking of reservation within OBC is necessary. If the reservation is confined to 20 per cent and remaining 10 to 12 per cent to Marathas, it can resolve the problem.”
“Even today, Maratha kunbhi confined to Vidarbha region and parts of north Maharashtra are already availing reservation under OBC for several decades. Although Marathas in Vidarbha and north Maharashtra use the term kunbhi, they are all Marathas. There are historical documents to illustrate they belong to the same community, Marathas,” he said.
While pointing out that influential and rich Marathas in western Maharashtra had refused to heed the reservation call unlike poor farmers and farm labourers, Khedekar said, “Today, amongst the worst affected are Marathas from Marathwada. They constitute up to 40 per cent of the population in eight districts of Marathwada region. Although the Maratha population in the state is 32 per cent.”
However, the MSS demand, which has begun to appeal to various Maratha groups, is being vehemently opposed by OBC leaders across party lines.
Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi president Prakash Ambedkar said, “Marathas’ inclusion within OBC would prove disastrous. Marathas are a socially and politically dominant class. Clubbing them with oppressed segments within OBC would lead to new clashes. Although it’s a fact there are sizeable Marathas who are reeling under poverty and are educationally backward. They will have to be considered as separate category. Now, it’s for the state government to find a way out to get Maratha reservation legal validity.”
“If government tries to tamper with existing OBC quota, VBA will oppose,” he warned.
Mainstream political parties are treading cautiously. The state government has left the matter to the Supreme Court. Cabinet sub-committee head and senior Cabinet minister Ashok Chavan said, “We want Maratha reservation under SEBC.” Senior NCP leader and Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Chhagan Bhujbal said, “OBCs constitute up to 52 per cent of the state’s population. Therefore, they are confined within limited quota of 27 per cent. We are not against Maratha reservation. But at the same time OBC quota should remain untouched.”
OBC leader and former MP Haribhau Rathod said, “Maratha reservation under SEBC is bound to be legally challenged. After the recent Constitutional amendment to Section 342 (A) and Constitutional legislation 102nd Amendment Act, included term OBC and SEBC. Therefore, there is ambiguity whether state has the jurisdiction on giving reservation under OBC and SEBC. Or does it rest with Centre’s jurisdiction alone. In such confusion Maratha reservation landing in legal complication and Constitutional challenges is expected.”
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