The Congress-NCP leaders’ ploy to use the Maratha rallies to unsettle the ruling BJP-led government in Maharashtra is proving counterproductive, both politically and socio-economically.
The signs of breakdown within the Congress-NCP were evident late Saturday. The AICC has sought a report from the Congress on the impact of the scrapping of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act.
Ahead of the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections where AICC Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will lead the campaign, the state Congress finds itself in a Catch 22 situation. A senior state Congress functionary said, “Today, we convened a meeting of both Dalit and Maratha leaders to discuss the atrocities Act. We are not against the scrapping of the Act.”
The decision comes amid growing dissent within the party, from Dalit leaders in and outside the state. A former Congress Dalit leader said, “The atrocities Act has Constitutional sanction. How can we allow its amendment? Moreover, what justification is there to take to the streets on Maratha reservation when the matter is already in the court and all political parties including the Congress, NCP and ruling BJP are supporting the issue.”
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The Kranti Maratha Morcha’s efforts have begun to unsettle some sections within the NCP too. Although the NCP has always earned the tag of a party dominated by the Marathas, a party leader said, “Politically, we will receive a huge setback from Other Backward Castes.”
Not surprisingly, senior leader Praful Patel and Supriya Sule (MP) on Saturday went to greet senior OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who was hospitalised. Bhujbal, arrested in alleged corruption cases, was admitted to hospital few days ago.
On the socio-economic front, the Congress and NCP leadership representing the Maratha community is facing the heat because of growing criticism against the cooperative sector, educational institutions and banks which are remote-controlled by them.
The large number of women and students complaining against fee hike structure, failure of these leaders to provide assured irrigation leading to drought and unemployment has not gone down well within the Congress-NCP.
A senior Kranti Maratha Morcha functionary told The Indian Express, “Yes, there is a concerted attempt to channelise the growing unrest against the ruling BJP-led government in Maharashtra. The planning for the Mumbai mega event on these lines is underway and social media is being used.”
The anger of women and students at rallies against private colleges, schools and cooperative district banks have not gone down well with the leaders. Achala Abhaykar, a student at Sangamner, said, “For a diploma course, I am paying Rs 56,000. And my friends who managed to get into the same college for degree courses are shelling out Rs 1.5 lakh per year.”
Across Western Maharashtra and Maratwhada, the voices of discontent against the established leadership is getting louder. While former chief minister Ashok Chavan took backseat at Nanded, Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Balasaheb Thorat stayed away from the main stage. At Latur, Amit Deshmukh kept away and instead sent his brother Dheeraj at the rally. At Jalna, BJP state president attended the rally but sat in the audience on the floor.