While terming them as socially and educationally backward, the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC), in its report submitted to the state government, has, however, categorically said that the Marathas are a politically empowered community, making it amply clear that the community should be considered for reservation only in education and jobs. So, there is no question of giving political reservation to the Marathas in local bodies as enjoyed by OBCs.
A senior Cabinet minister, who has gone through the report, said, “The state government’s decision to give reservation to Marathas under a separate category — Socially and Educationally Backward Class — will be confined to only education and jobs in government. There is no question of giving any reservation to Marathas in politics at any level.”
In Maharashtra, since the creation of the state on May 1,1960, there have been 18 chief ministers. Of which 11 belonged to the Maratha community. The average representation of the Maratha community in electoral politics in the state Assembly is up to 50 per cent. Which is much higher than the Maratha population in the state, which is between 27 per cent and 33 per cent.
A day after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis declared reservation for Marathas under ‘Socially and Educationally Backward Class’, there are apprehensions among OBCs over Marathas misusing the quota politically in local bodies.
On Monday, the Maharashtra OBC Federation held a meeting to discuss the ramifications of the Maratha reservation socially, economically and politically.
Anil Mahajan of the OBC Kranti Morcha said, “We want the government to ensure Marathas get quota in jobs and education proportionate to their population. Today, 8 per cent Kunbhi Marathas are getting reservation in Vidarbha, Konkan and North Maharashtra. Therefore, when the government gives 16 per cent quota to Marathas, they should ensure this 8 per cent is adjusted within the new category.”
However, Opposition leader in the state Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil demanded that Maratha reservation should be under the sub-category of OBC. Vikhe-Patil argued, “The government has set up a new category for Maratha reservation. Now, under the new category they will not reap the benefits extended to OBCs. The Marathas, socially and educationally backward, will be deprived of political reservations which is granted under OBC quota.”
A senior OBC leader requesting anonymity said, “The political empowerment of OBCs in Maharashtra has threatened the Marathas, who have always been the ruling class in the state. The political reservation to OBCs has set the pace for altering the political dynamics at the grassroots. The Marathas’ fight is not confined to just social and educational backwardness. They will use this quota for political assertion in the future.”
Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) chairman Milind Kamble said, “At present the Indian Constitution has three categories — Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and OBCs. Now, although the state government has decided to give Marathas reservation under a separate independent category called Socially and Educationally Backward Class, it will have to be under one of the three schedules of the Constitution. Since SC and ST are ruled out, the only provision is to put the newly created Socically and Educationally Backward Class under OBC. Even if they retain the newly created category as a separate entity, conflict between Marathas and OBCs over political reservation in local bodies’ elections cannot be ruled out.”
However, Maratha Kranti Morcha coordinator Rajendra Kondane said, “Our demand from the very beginning has been for reservation in jobs and education. We have never asked for political reservation. Where is the question of conflict.”
Interestingly, reservation to Marathas, which is perceived as a forward caste, has created a flutter with several communities consolidating under a banner to seek reservation under social and educational category. The state adivasi mana community held a meeting with Fadnavis to complain that they are not getting the validity certificates.
Muslim leaders threatened to launch an agitation if their demand for 5 per cent reservation is not considered immediately. Congress leader Naseen Khan said, “Muslims are seeking reservation under social, educational and economic backwardness criteria. If the government can create a special category for Marathas, why not bring a legislation to accommodate five per cent Muslims.”