Amid Hardik Patel-led agitation seeking quota for Patels in Gujarat, smaller allies of the ruling BJP in Maharashtra have decided to push for increasing the age limit for open category students to appear in the union and state civil services exam to 40 years.
Leaders of Swambhimani Paksha, Rastriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) and Shiv Sangram would be addressing a students’ meet in this regard in Pune next week.
Caste-based quota has been a strong political issue in Maharashtra. Agitation by Vinayak Mete had led to the inclusion of the powerful Maratha community in the Other Backward Classes (OBC), which was later stayed by the court. However, the court’s decision was overturned by the newly elected BJP-Shiv Sena government, which chose to take the legislative route to uphold the reservations.
At present, the Maratha community has been given 16 per cent reservations in educational institutes and government jobs.
Mete, who was earlier with NCP, later floated his own outfit Shiv Sangram and is now an MLC with the support of BJP and Shiv Sena, much like Mahadev Jankar of RSP. Raju Shetti, the lone MP of Swabhimani Paksha, is a part of the NDA. Ravikant Tupkar, a youth leader of his party, has been appointed as the head of the Handloom Development Corporation by the state government.
Explaining his decision to support the cause, Jankar said open-category aspirants should also get justice and the age limit for them should be raised. “Increasing the age limit for such aspirants will not affect the reservations for the other groups. In fact, this will ensure justice is done to the open category students,” he said.
Yogesh Pande, the official spokesperson of the Swabhimani Paksha, also said they supported increasing the age-limit for open category students to 40 years as it would help them gain time in cracking the tough civil services examinations.
“With competition growing, this will be doing justice to them. Also there is no threat to the existing reservations,” he said.
At present, the age limit for open category students for the central and state public services examination is 32 and 33 respectively, while for SC and ST aspirants, it is 37 and 38 years, respectively. For OBC candidates, the age limit is 35 and 38 years respectively. While open and OBC candidates are allowed limited number of attempts to crack the civic services examinations, there is no such limit for SC and ST aspirants.
Jankar along with Shetti, Mete and other leaders had also led the agitation for inclusion of the Dhangar (shepherd) community in the ST list. The agitation had spread across the state and was one of the reasons for the BJP doing well electorally in parts of Western Maharashtra and Vidharbha.