With Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announcing on Thursday that the government will bring a legislation to provide reservation to the Marathas under the new category of Socially and Educationally Backward Class in the ongoing Assembly Session, Congress and NCP leaders are apprehensive of its fallout in western Maharashtra and Marathwada — their traditional strongholds.
While maintaining that directives have been issued to party workers not to oppose the reservation, a Congress leader said: “The Marathas have always been more loyal to the Congress and NCP in western Maharashtra and Marathwada. These have been our traditional political bastions. We have issued directives to the cadre not to oppose the reservation, as it would be detrimental. But the real challenge will be to counter BJP’s electoral gain in these two regions.”
Of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, Marathawada (8) and western Maharashtra (12) together make up for 20 constituencies. As many as 126 of the total 288 Assembly seats in the state are in western Maharashtra (78) and Marathwada (48).
The rest of the seats are in Vidarbha (61), north Maharashtra (36) and the Konkan region (65).
“Almost six decades ago, majority of the Marathas living in Vidarbha, north Maharashtra and parts of Konkan region, who were engaged in agricultural activities and had land, have availed the benefits of reservation under the Other Backward Category in the name of Kunbhi-Marathas. Therefore, the new reservation is unlikely to change their status,” a source in the government said.
Parties such as Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena and BJP have indicated that they are not in favour of restructuring the existing OBC quota availed by the Kunbhi-Marathas, who account for up to 30 per cent of the population in Vidarbha, north Maharashtra and Konkan region.
With no change in the status of the Kunbhi-Marathas, Marathas living in western Maharashtra and Marathwada, who would now avail reservation under the new SEBC category, become new political hotspots, especially with Lok Sabha and Assembly elections coming up next year.
In the absence of an official caste census, surveys conducted by political parties and various commissions have indicated that Maharashtra has a Maratha population between 27 per cent to 33 per cent. The total population of Maharashtra is 11.40 crore.