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Explained: How Marathas got reservation, and what happens now

The BJP will seize the development to exploit the emotive reservation plank to consolidate its political base across Maharashtra. The developments provide them an opportunity to argue how MVA failed to protect the SEBC act which was adopted by Maharashtra government.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: May 11, 2021 8:44:09 am
Maratha reservation, Supreme CourtThe Maratha Community in Maharashtra carrying out a huge protest rally in Mumbai. (Express Photo by Prashant Nadkar/File)

The Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to strike down Maratha reservation puts the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in a tough spot as the Opposition BJP is sure to project this as the ruling coalition’s failure to protect legislation passed in the state Assembly and council. How did this reservation unfold and what happens now? The Indian Express explains.

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Why do the politically, socially and economically dominant Marathas want reservation?

On August 9, 2016 Marathas under the banner of Maratha Kranti Morcha came together at Aurangabad to protest the rape and killing of a 15-year-old girl in Kopardi village of Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra. Although Kopardi was the trigger, the Maratha consolidation, leading to 58 silent, but massive, rallies across the state between 2016-17, was centred on reservation for the community in government jobs and educational institutions. The mammoth public attendance at the leaderless and apolitical rallies made inroads from cities to villages to taluka levels across Maharashtra.

At the end of every rally, a ten-point charter of demands was presented to the district collector. High on the agenda was Maratha reservation. Apart from it the organisation demanded justice for the Kopardi girl and sternest punishment to perpetrators of the crime and loan waiver for farmers among other things.

In the second phase of agitation between 2017-18, street protests took a violent turn and even led ot some suicides. The first case of suicide demanding Maratha reservation took place in Kannad taluka of Aurangabad district. Marathas proclaimed they would not settle for anything less than reservation. Ek Maratha, Lakh Maratha — was the slogan coined to show their might.

Why was the M G Gaikwad Commission set up?

Sensing the growing aggression amongst the Marathas, the ruling BJP government lead by then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis set up a 11-member commission headed by Retired Justice N G Gaikwad on June 2017. After detail study and depositions from various groups and individuals, the commission submitted a report stating Marathas should be given reservation under Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC). Although the commission recommended reservation, it did not specify the quota percentage and left it to state government.

When did state adopt the legislation?

In November 2018, the Maratha community was given the reservation under the Maharashtra State Socially and Educational Backward Act. The special act was sanctioned by Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission and approved in both the assembly and council. The emphasis on legislation was to give reservation under SEBC, a legal and constitutional validity. The legislation proposed by then BJP-Sena government got unanimous support from then opposition parties Congress and NCP.

Maratha Kranti Morcha holding a sit-in protest in Mumbai. (Express Photo by Pradip Das/File)

However, the reservation under SEBC was challenged by a PIL in Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court while upholding the reservation pointed that instead of 16 per cent it should be reduced to 12 per cent in education and 13 per cent in jobs. Accordingly, the Act was implemented with Maratha students availing the quota in educational institutions and jobs.

In September 9, 2020 the Maratha reservation confronted another hurdle as Supreme Court stayed its implementation and refer the case to Chief Justice of India for larger bench. It meant Marathas could not avail quota benefits either in education or jobs till the final verdict came out. But those who had availed the quota benefit till date remained unaffected. The Supreme Court has on May 5 quashed the reservation.

What will be its impact socio-political of the order?

Marathas, who constitute 32 per cent of state population, are a major political force to reckon with in Maharashtra. The discontent amongst the community is likely to manifest once again. The divide between rich and poor Marathas could manifest in new form of politics and protests. The complex reservation politics had set the process of polarisation between Marathas versus OBCs. With SC’s order, it is likely to sharpen the divide on reservation.

What are the challenges before Maha Vikas Aghadi government?

The foremost task before the government is to substantiate its commitment to reservation for the Maratha community. All three parties Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena are in favour of Maratha quota. The sub committee for Maratha reservation headed by Ashok Chavan has maintained they had recruited the country’s best lawyers to plead their case in SC. The state government will not give up. It will explore all options to restore quota.

In 2019 Assembly Elections, the NCP swung the battle to its side by striking an emotive chord with Marathas. Retaining the support base without quota will be an uphill task.

How has Maratha Kranti Morcha reacted?

The Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM) has termed it absolutely “unacceptable”. The organisation holds ruling government responsible for not providing documentary proofs and asserting its case before apex court. Their argument is the government should have fought hard. They argue even the centres ten per cent reservation was challenged through PIL. But court did not strike down the quota as it was adequately presented in court. The MKM also highlights the situation in Tamil Nadu where 69 per cent quota is being implemented despite matter pending in court.

How is BJP playing up the developments?

The Bharatiya Janata Party will seize the development to exploit the emotive reservation plank to consolidate its political base across Maharashtra. The developments provide them an opportunity to argue how MVA failed to protect the SEBC act which was adopted by Maharashtra government. The BJP will work it’s way to use poor and oppressed class amongst Maratha community to penetrate the Congress-NCP’s political bastion in Western Maharashtra and Marathwada region.

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What is the reservation break up now?

The Maratha reservation of 12 and 13 per cent (in education and jobs) had increased the overall reservation ceiling to 64 per cent and 65 per cent, respectively. Minus Maratha quota now, the total reservation in the state caste wise is restored to 52 per cent — Scheduled Castes 13%, Scheduled Tribes 7%, OBC 19%, Special Backward Category 2%, Vimukta Jati 3%, Nomadic Tribes B 2.5%, Nomadic Tribes C Dhangar 3.5%, Nomadic tribe D Vanjari 2%.

Why was SEBC struck down?

Notwithstanding the politics, the question which is being debated is why did the apex court not uphold SEBC, created as a separate category to accommodate Marathas with unanimous consent from the state and legislative assemblies. The legal and constitutional challenges to Maratha reservation will not go uncontested.

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