The nomination of Dr Vikas Mahatme and Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje to the Rajya Sabha is a political strategy of social engineering to convey the BJP’s “commitment” to welfare of the ‘Maratha’ and ‘Dhangar’ communities in the state.
While noted opthalmologist Dr Mahatme was elected to the Rajya Sabha under the state BJP quota, Sambhaji Raje made it to the house of the elders through Presidential nomination. The move aims to make deeper inroads among these two communities, say political observers.
The Marathas constitute 33 per cent vote share in the state. Although the BJP has a long list of Marathas as elected members (MLAs), including senior cabinet minister Chandrakant Patil, nominating Sambhaji Raje was a bid to defuse the anti-reservation movement in the state.
Last week, Fadnavis while addressing pro-Maratha reservation supporters, said, “Where is the question of you agitating? My government is committed to giving reservation to the Maratha community. We have already adopted a resolution in support of the reservation. But the Maratha reservation has been challenged in the court.”
He said: “A committee under Education Minister Vinod Tawde has been set up to work out the modalities. The differences comes when one section is demanding and other rejecting. But here, on the reservation issue, we are together.”
The decision also signals BJP’s concerted attempts to consolidate its base in the western Maharashtra, traditionally a Congress-NCP bastion.
Sambhaji Raji, who hails from Kolhapur, is expected to provide firm footing to the BJP. Fadnavis has already entrusted the first project of restoring the historical Raigad Fort of Shivaji to Sambhaji Raje.
Sensing the complexities involved in getting the legal and constitutional sanction for reservations of Maratha and Dhangar communities, Fadnavis appears to be pro-actively engaging the community leaders in dialogue on the one hand and is also trying to empower them politically.
The Dhangar community wants reservation under the Scheduled Tribe category. In 2014 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, the BJP struck alliance with Shiv Sangram, a pro-Maratha reservation party and the Rashtriya Samaj Party, which is crusading the cause of Dhangar reservation in the state.
However, the decision to nominate both of them points to the fact that the BJP wants to have credible faces.