Dharmendra Jore: Courting the demand for quota

Updated: Dec 12, 2016, 08:01 IST | Dharmendra Jore |

The state and opposition tried to one-up each other over the Maratha community’s demand for quota, but their promises largely depend on the HC’s verdict on the issue

In the first week of the winter session of the Maharashtra legislature currently being held in Nagpur, no other issue was as hyped as the demand for a 16 per cent reservation for the Maratha community in jobs and education. But whatever the Maharashtra government has promised in the legislature will largely depend on the Bombay High Court’s verdict on the issue.

The government knows the hurdle, so does the opposition. Still, they attempted a game of one-upmanship in the winter session creating an impression that they really worked for raising the demands of communities like Marathas and Dhangars or a set of communities such as other backward classes (OBCs), scheduled castes and tribes (SCs/STs), and Muslims.

The Marathas are on a warpath sans violence that is synonymous with caste/reservation related protests. So far so good, one must say, but not many in Sakal Maratha Samaj, the organising body that has held more than 50 silent marches across that state, assure that the agitation would stick to an agenda of non-violence if the delay in meeting its demand is inordinate. The community has been readying itself to bat in the slog overs of the match they term as a do-or-a-die battle – it has planned a massive march to the state legislature in Nagpur on December 14 before they replicate the same in the state capital next year. A worried government has made a soothing effect by announcing a whole-hearted support to the community and at the same time, it is praying that the march in Nagpur doesn’t turn out to be an embarrassment in case the participants vent out their suppressed sentiments.

The governments’ fears are justified because the Maratha community, which has been showing exemplary unity, is now facing feud within its rank. A section of Marathas has decided to take to politics in the forthcoming polls. The explanation that politically motivated Maratha sections have given is that they don’t want to get affiliated with established political forces because of the exploitation their community has suffered in vote-bank politics. They want to create an alternative on the basis of a domination that the Marathas have had in the state politics. But the breakaway Maratha outfits have not been able to negate the charge that they are sponsored by parties sitting in the government or opposition. A majority of Marathas who stand with the Sakal Maratha Samaj don’t deny a possibility of established political parties hijacking the agitation further for political gains.

As was said earlier in this column, the Maratha agitation has caused a rift in the society. The Dalits and the OBCs have raised a banner of revolt against the government. The Dalits see a demand for diluting the act for preventing atrocities against them as a big bane, if approved. The OBCs fear that the Marathas may eat into their share of quota and other communities such as Dhangar, Lingayat and Koli (fishermen) too have pressed for a quota for themselves. The demand from non-Maratha communities is expected to sharpen further as the government gets more sympathetic towards Marathas.

It was this concern of the disgruntled communities that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis attempted to comfort in his speech in the legislature. The two-day debate saw all party members supporting a quota for Marathas and the feisty response that Fadnavis delivered revolved around vote politics. Allegations and counter-allegations flew thick and fast.

Fadnavis ensured the communities within his party’s reach were given a positive signal. On the other hand, he saw to it that the Muslims were flatly refused a quota on the basis on religion because the BJP knows Muslims can never be converted into a dedicated vote bank. Instead, the CM accused the Congress and the NCP of misleading and exploiting the Muslims. The BJP’s game plan has always been aimed at diverting the Muslims from the Congress to a party like AIMIM. The division of votes helps. The latest civic polls in Maharashtra, where the AIMIM split votes in favour of the BJP, stand testimony to this tactic. The same ploy will be used in cutting the Congress to size in the BMC polls.

Giving more reservations within a statutory framework is longer a simple thing because of increasing number of seekers across the country. The courts have struck down unconstitutional provisions, and since solutions may not lie in reservations alone, the Centre and State governments should urgently think of an alternative for raising the social and economical levels of the seekers.

Standfirst: The government knows the hurdle, so does the opposition. Still, they attempted a game of one-upmanship in the winter session creating an impression that they really worked for raising the demands of communities like Marathas and Dhangars or a set of communities such as OBCs, SCs/STs, and Muslims.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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