Updated: July 25, 2018 2:59:34 am
AFTER the bandh call evoked mixed to poor response in parts of the state on Tuesday, the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which is leading the Maratha agitation for quota in jobs and educational institutions, gave Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis an ultimatum to sit for talks within two days or face more virulent form of protest.
On Monday, 28-year-old Kakasaheb Dattatraya Shinde had died after he jumped into the Godavari river from a bridge at Kaygaon Toka village in Aurangabad during the ‘Jal Samadhi’ agitation conducted by a group of local Marathas. Following this, the Morcha had called for a bandh in Kolhapur, Sholapur, Marathwada and Pune on Tuesday and in Konkan, Raigad and Mumbai along with its adjoining areas on Wednesday.
Welcoming the offer for talks, the government said it was ready to hold discussions, “which is the only way to resolve issues raised by the community”. The demand for talks was raised by the Sambhaji Brigade, the aggressive face of the Morcha, in Pune on Tuesday. Two days ago, the Brigade had threatened to stop the CM from performing puja at Vitthal-Rukmani temple in Pandharpur on June 23. The CM had eventually dropped the plan to visit Pandharpur.
Manoj Aakhare, regional president of Sambhaji Brigade, said Fadnavis should come face-to-face with them to discuss the demands of the community. “In the next two days, the CM should invite representatives of various Maratha organisations as well as people’s representatives for a discussion.”
If Fadnavis fails to do so, Aakhare said, the Maratha organisations would be left with no option but to gherao MLAs, MPs and ministers. “The CM, too, will not be spared. They should then not blame us… we will launch an intensified agitation,” he added.
Supporting the demand for a discussion, Purushottam Khedekar, a key leader of the Morcha who heads Maratha Seva Sangh, said,”We want to know why is the government delaying the decision to accord OBC status to the Maratha community? We want to understand the government’s problems. Fadnavis should tell us about the impediments faced by his government and also whether it is possible for his government to meet our demands. He has kept us waiting for too long. Our patience is running thin.”
Khedekar added that the CM refuses to take an initiative and takes refuge behind his ministers. “When we held 58 silent marches, he had no time to meet us. He kept sending his ministers who were clueless. This time, we will not meet anybody but the chief minister. If he is honest about meeting our demands, he should met us face to face.”
Welcoming the offer for talks, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said: “We have always been saying that there was a need to discuss the demands raised by the Maratha community. Now that they have come forward for discussion, we are more than willing to discuss the issues and find a solution.”
He added that the Morcha should name their representatives and the government would invite them all for discussion. “The government is committed to meet the demands of the Maratha community,” said Patil.
Earlier in the day, Patil drew flak from the Maratha leaders after he reportedly said in Kolhapur that “certain paid elements” were part of the agitation. Patil, however, said he was quoted out of context. “What I meant to say is that certain outside elements would infiltrate into the agitation and try to defame the Maratha Kranti Morcha.”
Meanwhile, the Maratha leaders said they have been hurt by the “nasty comments” made by the CM regarding letting off snakes among the devotees in Pandharpur. “The kind of loose talk the CM makes has further angered the community. The CM should apologise for such intemperate remarks,” said Santosh Shinde, Pune president of Sambhaji Brigade. On Sunday, Fadnavis had said that the government had received intelligence reports about snakes being let off among “warkaris” to create trouble in Pandharpur.
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