Maratha quota no longer a state issue
Handling of issue has given BJP the upper hand in Maharashtra; quota's approval, if any, by a judicial scrutiny should pave way for other states
The state is all set to grant the Maratha community a quota in education and jobs. The Backward Class Commission has endorsed the community's claim of social and economic backwardness by conducting independent studies and surveys over the past year.
Though the quantum of reservation and a legal method of granting it have not been finalised yet, it is decided to have an independent category for Marathas. The decision should have a bearing on a quota politics that several other states are involved with.
Maharashtra has been a leading light in many ways. Now, it would be more educative for the quota politics-mired states to see how the Devendra Fadnavis government makes its case strong enough to withstand legal scrutiny, because the earlier attempt by the Congress-NCP to grant quota ahead of the 2014 elections failed at the courts. Upon receiving the report, Fadnavis announced that the Marathas should be ready to celebrate on December 1.
Does the CM's statement mean that the community should expect an official decision on a particular day? With 10 days to go for the CM's 'deadline' and the Maharashtra legislature sitting from Monday till November end, should we expect a fool-proof law made in the Vidhan Sabha -- unlike the one that would not meet the fate of an ordinance that was promulgated by a previous Congress-NCP government? The 2014 ordinance got scrapped by the high court in terms of a quota for the Marathas (because the decision was not based on findings of the Backward Class Commission), but the HC had retained a reservation for the Muslims, which is not on the agenda of the current government. The BJP government has consistently been saying that the constitution does not permit a religion-based reservation. It argues that the Muslims have been given more privileges and welfare schemes than any other government.
BJP up, but opposition not down
This particular phase is crucial for major parties. The BJP has won an upper hand ahead of the polls. Firstly, it lapped up the opportunity that came in as the government changed. It promised a quota for Marathas and started working on it, whereas the Congress and NCP kept on discreetly fuelling the fire through statewide Maratha agitations, expecting the rage on the streets to work against the BJP. But, with the decision likely to be made anytime now, the Congress and NCP may shift their focus to subjects other than the Maratha reservation, and talk more about denial of reservation to Muslims, drought and the alleged corruption in the government.
It is said that the BC commission report which was accepted by the State Cabinet on Sunday, would be discussed in the winter session that begins today. The Opposition has questioned the information that was leaked and objected to the CM's 'prophetic' announcement. The winter session should be discussing these points alongside the highlights of the report, if tabled for consideration of the legislature.
For a change, the Shiv Sena does not differ with the BJP on this issue. The Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is said to have agreed with CM Fadnavis about going ahead with all possible ways of doing it.
The communities that are benefited by the current 52% reservations in Maharashtra are worried that Marathas will eat into their existing share. The concern is deep among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who fear that they would be hit most if such a large chunk (of Marathas) is made part of them.
Fadnavis has assured that the existing OBC quota would not be compromised to accommodate Marathas, who would have a separate category. But a section of Marathas is demanding that Marathas be treated as OBCs because the community is not very sure that a quota for a specific caste would be constitutional. The Dhangar community has also demanded a quota but their demand is somewhat different from the Marathas.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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