The Congress-NCP government’s 16 per cent quota for the powerful Maratha community announced in the run-up to the state Assembly polls has upset Other Backward Class (OBC) groups in the state who are even contemplating legal action.
The Marathas are a dominant caste group in the state, wielding significant political clout and have been traditional supporters of the Congress and NCP. The majority of Maharashtra’s Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and sugar barons are Marathas.
“The OBC community is feeling insecure. The state claims there are 32 per cent Marathas, and has given them 16 per cent reservation. But the OBC population is around 50 per cent, why is our quota only 19 per cent?” asked Hanumant Upre of the Satyashodhak OBC Parishad.
He added, “The new reservations go beyond the permissible legal limit. We have planned agitations and will also consider going to court.” Views like these are triggering concern within the government about whether the quota decision will backfire.
New quotas could face legal hurdles
The Supreme Court had earlier capped quotas at 50 per cent. Now with the 16 per cent quota for Marathas and 5 per cent quota for Muslims, the state’s reservations have gone up to 73 per cent.
Officials within the government are sceptical if the quotas will stand legal scrutiny. The state’s Law and Judiciary Department had voiced its concerns in a confidential cabinet note accessed by The Hindu. Its note on the Muslim quota said, “While taking a decision, the Minority department may keep in view the observation and ratios laid down by the High Court and Supreme Court in sustaining the decision.”
In order to get around the legal barrier, the government had conducted a survey of the Maratha community to prove its social backwardness. It also took legal opinion from Supreme Court lawyer P.P. Rao and introduced the quotas under a new category of “socially and educationally backward.”