The president of Republican Party of India (RPI) and Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale on Sunday said his ministry would propose political reservation for candidates belonging to the Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) in the upcoming state Assembly polls.
Addressing a press meeting, his first after assuming charge of his ministry at the Centre, Athawale said, “The position of those belonging to the VJNT is worse than those from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Reservation will be important for their upliftment. I will take up the matter with the Chief Minister.”
The RPI chief suggested that either the VJNT community be awarded separate reservation of about 8 per cent to10 per cent or be merged with the existing Other Backward Classes (OBCs), who hold 27 per cent political reservation at present. He added that his ministry also plans to include members of the Dhangar community under Scheduled Tribes, which will strengthen people from all reserved caste categories in the state.
The RPI, which is part of the NDA alliance at the Centre, will contest the Assembly polls on its own symbol while keeping its alliance with the BJP, he said.
When asked about seat-sharing plans for state elections, Athawale said, “We (RPI) are a stable party in Maharashtra and we shall seek 10 out of the 18 seats that are identified as non-BJP and non-Shiv Sena. We hope to field at least one candidate in Pune district this election.”
During his visit to the city, the minister met with top officials of Pune district administration, zilla parishad and municipal corporation. He took stock of several flagship programmes of the Union government, including Mudra Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Ujjwala Yojana, Jandhan Yojana, among others.
The minister said the budget for his ministry has been increased by Rs 21,000 crore this financial year and now stands at Rs 76,000 crore. “During the cabinet meeting, our ministry had tabled the need to hike the amount of scholarships given to students, which has not been increased in a decade. Last year, scholarships worth Rs 1,150 crore benefited 4.38 lakh students,” he said.
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