Battle for Maratha reservation gets thorny

Updated: Dec 08, 2016, 09:44 IST | Dharmendra Jore

CM sidesteps opposition’s demand for reservations for Muslims as well, says leaders are creating rift

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule arrive at Vidhan Bhawan during the winter session of Maharashtra Assembly in Nagpur. Pic/PTI
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule arrive at Vidhan Bhawan during the winter session of Maharashtra Assembly in Nagpur. Pic/PTI

The first shots in the 16 per cent reservation for Maratha community battle were fired in the state legislature yesterday with the ruling and opposition leaders exchanging barbs, as the Congress demanded a quota for the Muslim community as well.

Fiery back-and-forth
When BJP’s Mumbai MLA Ashish Shelar kicked off the debate, the Congress asked the government to approve its proposal for extending the benefits for Muslims, too. It said that the BJP government was against Muslims and meted out step-motherly treatment to the minority.

Parliamentary minister Vinod Tawde — who also heads a core group of leaders that have strategised the government’s plan of countering petitions against the Maratha reservations in the high court — asked if the Opposition did not want Marathas to get the quota. The subsequent ruckus prompted CM Devendra Fadnavis to intervene, asking the opposition to stop politicising the issue for no reason and accused the leaders of stalling the government’s healthy debate.

“You have been doing it since the beginning. You are politically motivated and want to create a rift (in communities),” he said. He went on to ask the house to not deal with the failure of the earlier government that granted a quota to Marathas, but failed in making a strong case in the court. “We were together in approving the quota in the house. We should be united even now if we want a quota to be given to Marathas.”

The battle for motions
The CM, however, dodged the demand for Muslim reservation and asked the opposition to introduce it’s own motion for this purpose.

Interestingly, the Bombay high court had previously scrapped reservations for Marathas, but maintained a 5 per cent quota for Muslims in education (not in jobs).

The Fadnavis government then scrapped the quota for Muslims, but decided to give Marathas a quota and also prepared itself to fight a case in which the decision was challenged. Yesterday’s motion is crucial in the backdrop of the massive agitation started by the Maratha community and the tacit support the Congress and NCP had been giving them. So the government plans to deny the Congress and NCP credit in getting the demand approved and to that end, has filed a 2700-page affidavit with evidence supporting a claim that the Maratha community is socially and economically backward.

Case for Muslims
The BJP opposes reservations for Muslim because it thinks that the quota cannot be given on the basis of religion. On the other hand, Congress MLA Nasim Khan said that his government had given some 50 weaker castes in the Muslims a 5 per cent quota on the basis of their backwardness and not because of their religion.

“The BJP is anti Muslim and it does not want the community to improve its living standard by availing education and jobs,” he told mid-day.

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