The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government in Maharashtra is likely to recognize the Marathas as a part of the Other Backward Classes, or the OBCs, and reserve 20 per cent seats for them in government jobs and educational institutions, in a move that is certain to invite charges of political opportunism, with assembly elections due in the state in less than four months.
The proposal to reserve 20 per cent seats in government jobs and educational institutions for Marathas is a politically contentious issue. However this reservation is over and above the existing reservation which is around 52 per cent. This move will take reservation up to 72 per cent.
Speaking to reporters on the issue, Industries Minister Narayan Rane said, “A final announcement on this issue will be made after 20th June when we meet after the code of conduct is lifted. Many people were against this move but we will ensure this happens.”
The Marathas comprise about 25 per cent of the electorate in Maharashtra, while the OBCs constitute a little over 50 per cent. But political power in the state has remained by and large with the Marathas since Independence.
In the Lok Sabha polls held earlier this year, Congress and former union minister Sharad Pawar’s NCP were routed in the state – they could win only six of the 48 seats. Mr Pawar’s party won four and the Congress was reduced to a mere two seats. The move for a quota for the Marathas is being seen as part of an attempt by the two alliance partners to retrieve some political ground in the state.
The Congress-NCP alliance has ruled Maharashtra since 1999. It had, in 2012, set up a Cabinet sub-committee headed by Mr Rane to look into the demand for extending OBC reservation to the Marathas.
The sub-committee submitted its report in February this year. Mr Rane has reiterated in the Legislative Council that the government is committed to 20 per cent reservation for the Marathas.