IN A major embarrassment for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, four activists belonging to the Dhangar (shepherd) community disrupted proceedings of the Assembly on Tuesday by raising slogans against him and throwing leaflets from the visitors’ gallery.
While the activists were whisked away and remained in the custody of the Chief Security Officer of the House, the Opposition leveraged the opportunity to train guns against the BJP over the Dhangar reservation issue. Even more embarrassing for the BJP was the fact that the activists had gained entry to the visitors’ gallery on the recommendation of ally Shiv Sena’s MLA Trupti Sawant.
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The BJP ran an election campaign in Maharashtra promising reservations for the Dhangar community in government jobs and education. Fadnavis, who was the state BJP president at that time, had said that if the party was elected to power, the BJP would approve reservations for the Dhangars.
Objecting to the non-delivery of this assurance, the activists, who identified themselves as being affiliated to the socio-political outfit Yashwant Sena, disrupted proceedings by raising slogans against Fadnavis. Ironically, Mahadeo Jankar, leader of another BJP ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, was once associated with the outfit. Sources close to Jankar clarified on Tuesday, however, that he had parted ways with the outfit after forming his own political organisation.
Security officers forced the activists out of the gallery and detained them after the Speaker adjourned proceedings for 10 minutes.
When the House resumed, the Opposition cornered the BJP over the issue, contending that the row over reservation had now even knocked the doors of the Vidhan Sabha. Smarting under the embarrassment, the government benches chose to remain silent, but BJP legislators Yogesh Sagar and Anil Gote launched a counter-offensive against the Opposition. Speaker Haribhau Bagade said that the government must take a decision on the community reservation soon. The Speaker also asked the government to expedite decisions on Maratha and Muslim reservation issues, after the Congress raised the issue.
Earlier during the day, the ruling and the Opposition benches resumed their crossfire on the row over alleged insult to the national flag inside the Assembly. There had been an uproar over the issue on Monday too. On Tuesday, BJP’s Ashish Shelar alleged that a video clip of Monday’s proceedings showed that an NCP MLA had violated the flag code. The Opposition was quick to launch a counterattack. While claiming that there had been no violation of the flag code, it demanded a probe on the source that had circulated the video clip. It also chided the ruling benches by citing a couple of episodes linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The impasse was eventually broken with the Speaker announcing that he would give his ruling after watching the video clip and discussing with all group leaders.
Incidentally the uproar over the reservation issue appeared to have put paid to the Opposition’s demand for a discussion on water scarcity and the prohibition of assembly of people near water sources in Marathwada’s Parbhani. Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil had alleged that the collector had imposed the prohibition on Monday. Similar orders earlier issued in Latur had created a furore.