Maratha quota: How CM Devendra Fadnavis pulled off his biggest promise

Nov 30, 2018, 07:00 IST | Dharmendra Jore

EXCLUSIVE >> Devendra Fadnavis tells mid-day how he weathered pressure from all quarters and pushed the controversial reservation law

Maratha quota: How CM Devendra Fadnavis pulled off his biggest promise
A delegation of Marathas garland CM Devendra Fadnavis and his colleagues after the reservation bill was passed yesterday

He was ridiculed when he told the Marathas to start celebrating and cease their agitation for reservation. Few believed CM Devendra Fadnavis when he said the quota would be finalised by the end of November. And yet, he achieved the feat with two days to spare, birthing a new law on Thursday that will empower Marathas with a 16% quota. "This is the biggest day in my life, because a serious issue has been resolved," said the CM, in an exclusive chat with mid-day.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis basked in the glow of this success, as opposition leaders like Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Ajit Pawar and Jayant Patil and some of his cabinet colleagues made a beeline to congratulate him at his Vidhan Bhavan office.

"The first thing I needed to do was to study the State Backward Commission report, which has proved through quantifiable data that the Maratha community is backward," he said, adding graciously, "I must acknowledge the support from opposition parties in the legislature."

Devendra Fadnavis
Devendra Fadnavis

This support only appeared at the fag end of the struggle; over the last two weeks, the opposition had mounted pressure to table the entire State Backward Class Commission (SBCC) report on Maratha reservation, which is over a thousand pages long and would have delayed the Bill.

Trouble from all quarters
The opposition held up proceedings, even as Marathas threatened to lay siege to the city if their demand was not met. Other backward classes, too, demanded that their reservation should not be eaten into by Marathas.

"My biggest concern was to ensure no dent to the existing reservations as we wanted Marathas to get 16% quota. Now both things have been achieved. There should be no complaint now," he said.

He rejected the opposition's demand for the entire report, stating that he would only table the Action Taken Report (ATR) and then introduce the Bill. The trick worked, and the opposition was left with no choice but to fall in line and support the government, as no party would want to be seen opposing the quota.

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When asked if the new law would stand legal scrutiny, he said, "We are prepared to tackle any such eventuality. We have put in effort in drafting the law. And let me tell you that the backing of the backward commission's data makes our case even stronger. The fact that the commission has established the backwardness of Marathas will help ensure the quota. The community cannot be denied protection any longer."

'I read every word'
Fadnavis said his training as a law professional came in handy while drafting the law. "I personally oversaw everything. Every word in the Bill was read and verified by me," he said, while crediting officials and an empowered committee of cabinet ministers for the primary work.

What was the process like? Was he under pressure? The CM responded, "I did feel pressure, but was prepared mentally and tactically to counter it. I understood the tactics of the opposition and did not allow them to divide society."

Brownie points
Does he see any political gains coming his way with this present to the Maratha community, which accounts for about 30% of the state's vote bank? "Frankly speaking, a majority of the Maratha community is with the BJP. We may not have established people with us, but the poor and middle class have always been there to support us. My cabinet has 50% Maratha leaders from underprivileged backgrounds. I'm sure that the Marathas will continue to support us in the future as well, not just because of the reservation, but also because we have taken many decisions that will take the community forward socially, educationally and economically."

He added that he hasn't overlooked the provisional appointments made under the Maratha quota in the recent past. "The new law will protect about 8,000 jobs that have already been given," he said.

What's next?
So what is the plan going ahead? "Ensuring effective implementation of the Maratha reservation and fulfillment of all assurances given to other caste groups," said Fadnavis.

Does this mean the Dhangar community, too, will get a quota in the days to come? "Why not? We have already sent a proposal to the Centre to include the community in the ST category, but that does not mean Dhangars will eat into existing ST reservations. Watch out for an amicable and acceptable solution to this problem also. We will ensure communal harmony by way of doing justice to all," he replied.

Also read: Maharashtra government proposes 16 per cent reservation for Marathas

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