In a bid to transform its traditional ‘pro-Maratha community’ image, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party on Tuesday demanded reservations for economically weaker sections from all castes and religions — including those of Brahmins and Muslims.
A coalition of Maratha groups in Maharashtra has been demanding the inclusion of their community in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) for many years now. Several senior NCP leaders like Vinayak Mete have been at the helm of the movement.
With an eye on upcoming elections in 2014, both in centre and state, the party made it clear that not a single percent reservation given to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs will be snatched away from them.
“Party supports the reservation given to people who are economically backward, irrespective of which caste and religion they belong to. Whether they are Brahmins, Marathas, Jains or Muslims, we want the poor of this state to get reservation without damaging that of existing reservation quota,” said Bhaskar Jadhav, state president, NCP.
When asked whether party supports the specific demand of Marathas to be included in OBCs, party’s state executive president Jitendra Awhad said that a community cannot be allowed to change its caste just to take benefit of reservations.
According to sources inside the NCP, the party’s clear stand on Maratha reservation issue has come after realising that concentrating merely on votes from one community cannot bring victory to the party in next elections.
Mr. Pawar, too, in his recent speech in Pune had indicated party’s changed tactics, when he reached out to Muslim voters by bringing out the issue of false terror cases against the young Muslim men.
The party sources also acknowledged that the recent pre-poll survey results, which indicated less number of seats to NCP compare to last elections, have made party leadership to change its poll tactics. The clear indication of it was the termination of the old state committee of the party and appointment of new 41 members in it.
As per the party’s new strategy, each member will be given the responsibility of a district. It has also made it sure that every caste, sub-caste and religion is well-represented in its new committee.