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Maharashtra polls: PM hints at reservation for Dhangars

Hitting the NCP’s weak spot, Modi extended sympathy and support to the Dhangars, who have vociferously opposed Ajit Pawar’s election candidature due to the lack of support for their community from the NCP

Baramati: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived onstage yesterday, to address one of the biggest rallies held in NCP bastion, Baramati, not only did he launch a scathing attack on the Pawars (Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar and Supriya Sule) and their party, but he also hit their sore spot, extending his sympathies to the local Dhangar community, even hinting at reservation for them.

Dhangar Community Reservation Action Committee
Dhangar Community Reservation Action Committee’s state president, Hanumant Sool presents PM Modi with a yellow turban, a black blanket and a long stick, the traditional attire for the nomadic tribe from Sool. Pic/Shashank Sane

Achilles’ heel
The Dhangars have vocifer-ously opposed Pawar’s candidature in the state assembly elections, after not a single NCP leader or party worker came to their aid in their attempts to be included in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) bracket. They are traditionally a shepherding community, and were recently in the news, after they launched a protest in Pune last month, demanding reservation for the community.

The Dhangars are currently educationally, economically and socially backward, and the community has already been provided reservation in other states, but are yet to find the same support in Maharashtra. There are around three lakh Dhangar voters in Baramati — a potentially game-changing number.

When MP Supriya Sule contested the Lok Sabha polls in April, fighting against Rashtriya Samaj Party (RSP) president, Mahadev Jankar — a prominent face of the Dhangar community in Baramati — her vote bank shrank from 3.5 lakh voters in 2009 to a mere 69,000.

So it’s no co-incidence that the BJP is also fielding a Dhangar candidate this time — Balasaheb Gawde. As the RSP is BJP’s ally, Jankar has extended all support to Gawde.

During his half-hour speech, Modi said, “Why has the Dhangar community had to fight for their rights for so long? State government should have at least listened to their demands,” adding further, “the Dhangar community has always backed NCP here, but in return they got stabbed in the back.”

Meanwhile, in a recent rally in Chalisgaon, BJP party president Amit Shah also announced that the party would provide reservation to the Dhangar community if they come in power.

‘10 times corruption’
Modi also took several potshots at the Pawars, and said to the massive crowd that turned up to listen to his speech, “In Baramati this is the second movement of independence, and this massive crowd for today’s rally raises questions on the fate of the uncle and nephew.” “As many as 40 villages in Baramati are still facing severe water scarcity. Ajit Pawar has not even solved this basic issue,” he said, adding that the NCP party symbol (a clock face) always shows the time as 10.10, indicating “ten times the corruption in the past ten years”.

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