The Maharashtra government on Tuesday issued a notification on the implementation of the 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the state. The government clarified that the new quota, which would be applicable from February 1, would not be extended to the politically dominant Maratha community.
Before the rollout of the 10% quota on Tuesday, approximately 85% of the state’s population was already under reservation. This included the 13% Scheduled Castes, 7% Scheduled Tribes, 30% Other Backward Classes (including the Vimukta Jati Nomadic Tribes or VJNTs), 2% Special Backward Classes, and 33% Marathas.
In November last year, following statewide protests, the Devendra Fadnavis government had announced a 16% quota for the Maratha community in jobs and education. Marathas were brought under the recently introduced category of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs). However, the Bill on the quota is yet to pass judicial scrutiny. Several petitions are being heard in the Bombay High Court.
The Fadnavis government’s clarification that the 10% EWS quota would not be applicable to Marathas is in line with the Centre’s formula that excludes the poorer sections among the categories that are already covered under some reservation. Accordingly, the Maratha community will not benefit from the new quota.
How 10% quota decision will play out ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls
Politically, in the build-up to the Lok Sabha elections, both the ruling and the Opposition parties are busy trying to get their caste arithmetic right. With Marathas being the most dominant force in both the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party, the Opposition, too, is backing a quota for Marathas. In fact, it was the previous Congress-NCP-led regime that had first announced 16% reservations for Marathas ahead of the 2014 Assembly elections. However, the move was stayed by the High Court. Interestingly, the elections which followed, witnessed a decisive consolidation of the OBC vote in the BJP’s favour.
The state government’s decision to not include Marathas under the new quota for the EWS is also interesting because the Bill for the 16% reservation for Marathas has not yet passed judicial scrutiny. While the government has not stayed the quota so far, it has submitted an undertaking to the court stating that it won’t be implemented during the pendency of the case.
Further, a report released by Maharashtra’s Backward Class Commission in January this year counted Marathas on a par with the Kunbis, who are already included among the OBCs. Thereafter, a section among the OBCs is wary that in the eventuality of the High Court striking down an independent quota for the Marathas, they would be included among the OBCs.
Mindful of the political implications that the Maratha quota might have on the non-Maratha electorate, Fadnavis has been vocal in assuring that the “existing reservation for the OBCs” won’t be impacted in any way.