Quota issue: Maratha leaders hit the streets

On the boil: Members of the pro-Maratha Sambhaji Brigade during a torchlight protest against the MVA government in Pune.  

Despite Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray attempting to present a united front over the Maratha reservation issue, protests erupted across the State on Thursday as pro-Maratha outfits and community leaders censured the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government for its lacklustre efforts in defending the quota law in the Supreme Court.

Several community leaders, including Bharatiya Janata Party MPs like Sambhajiraje and Narayan Rane, as well as former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, questioned the timing and the logic behind the MVA government’s mega recruitment drive to fill 12,500-odd vacant police posts. They said that it was a gross injustice to Maratha youths who would be bereft of this opportunity owing to the apex court’s stay on the implementation of the Maratha quota law.

In Kolhapur, Maratha outfits staged agitations outside the offices of the Kolhapur District Cooperative Milk Producers Association (known popularly as ‘Gokul’), while demonstrations flared up in Pune and parts of the Marathwada region.

Activists of the Sakal Maratha Samaj in Kolhapur attempted to waylay milk tankers heading to Mumbai, but were thwarted by the police.

In Pune, the Maratha Kranti Morcha submitted a proposal enumerating its demands to district Collector Rajesh Deshmukh.

Maratha activists across the State raised slogans against Mr. Thackeray and State PWD Minister Ashok Chavan, demanding their resignations. Mr. Chavan headed the Cabinet sub-committee on the Maratha quota issue.

Sit-ins, which went on for several hours, were held by members of the pro-Maratha Chhava Sanghatana outside Mr. Chavan’s house in Nanded and minister Amit Deshmukh’s house in Latur.

Seeking to pacify the protesters, Mr. Chavan, himself a Maratha community leader, said that the State government had done everything in its power to defend the interests of the Marathas in the Supreme Court.

“While the SC’s decision was indeed unexpected, there was no shortfall in our [MVA government’s] efforts. Besides, there is no point in agitating in this manner. The issue will have to be resolved by legal means,” Mr. Chavan said.

Stating that he had worked to the best of his ability on the matter as head of the Cabinet sub-committee, Mr. Chavan offered to step down if it so pleased Maratha outfits.

“Furthermore, if Maratha groups feel that the lawyers appointed by the MVA government have indeed not fought wholeheartedly to present the case for the quota law in the SC, then they are free to hire their own lawyers,” he said.

Shiv Sangram leader and BJP ally Vinayak Mete alleged a complete “lack of coordination” between the three parties — Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress — those constituted the MVA government.

“Mr. Chavan has proved himself utterly inept. He should resign not only from his post as chairman of the quota sub-committee but also as minister,” Mr. Mete said.

Criticising the MVA’s mega recruitment drive to fill vacant police posts, Dilip Desai, Sakal Maratha Samaj coordinator from Kolhapur, said the Thackeray government’s move was akin to rubbing salt on the wounds of the Maratha community.

“This is unacceptable. At a time when the Supreme Court has suspended the reservation in education and employment for Maratha youths, this government has ordered the police recruitment process. It should be stopped immediately till the SC’s final decision,” Mr. Desai demanded.

Mr. Fadnavis, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, said that there was absolutely no hurry in announcing the recruitment.

“The government must assure the Maratha community that their rights are secure,” he said.

Stating that the Maratha community should be included in the OBC category, Santosh Shinde of the Sambhaji Brigade said that the GR issued by State Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad must be cancelled immediately.

“The government should give 50% fee concession in all the new admission process of students from the Maratha community. Until the issue of Maratha reservation is resolved, no mega recruitment processes, including police recruitment, should be taken up by the State government,” Mr. Shinde said.

Mr. Rane, Rajya Sabha MP, lashed out at the CM, claiming that the latter “never had had any affection for the community”.

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 9:24:30 AM |

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