In the wake of the state assembly and general elections in 2019, the BJP-led Maharashtra government, in a strategic move to nab the opposition’s vote bank, unanimously passed the Maratha quota bill that proposes 16 per cent reservation for the community at the Maharashtra Assembly’s winter session. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who tabled the Maratha quota bill, ingeniously thanked the opposition members for helping in the passage of the bill unanimously.
On November 18, CM Fadnavis had said that the state government will follow the Tamil Nadu model to give 16 per cent quota to Marathas as a “social and educationally backward class” and if the CM delivers on his promise, Maharashtra will offer 68 per cent quota in education and government jobs to benefit Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), other minor social groups, and the Marathas. Later, on Thursday the bill was passed on the penultimate day of the assembly’s winter session.
Initially, according to the reports, Fadnavis had tabled the action taken report (ATR) on the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission’s (SBCC) recommendations for reservation for the Maratha community in government jobs and education. The bill was tabled in the assembly after the SBCC endorsed the Maratha community’s social, educational and financial backwardness in its report. As per the SBCC’s report on social, educational and financial status of the Marathas, the community has been declared as socially and educationally backward class of citizens (SEBC) and have inadequate representation in services under the state, the panel report said.
Fadnavis had earlier said that the state government had accepted the major recommendations of the State Commission for the Backward Classes, which submitted a favourable report on the Maratha community’s demand on November 15.
NCP leader Majeed Memon called this decision a ‘political game’ to betray the people. He further stated, “Congress-NCP government had already sanctioned 16 per cent quota to the Marathas, they were set aside by the Bombay High Court and the situation doesn’t change. Now it should be scrutinised before being considered as a genuine move.”
A few days ago, the Opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party had also raised a concern over the quota for Marathas during the winter session, forcing the Assembly to be adjourned twice.
Congress leader Bhalchandra Mungekar called it a delayed step with 58 Morchas, 44 people died – including suicides. “The Maratha reservation issue was pending for long and they had promised to do it as early as possible. The Maratha community deserves congratulations for their sustained agitation. Whether this will have a favourable effect for them in the elections will be decided by the people. It is very difficult to contemplate how people will respond to it,” he added.
The Maratha community, which comprises over 30 per cent of the state’s population, has been seeking reservation in government jobs and education for a long time. Their protests for the same in July and August this year had taken a violent turn. Later, on November 27, groups of youths mobilised by the Maratha Kranti Morcha, an umbrella body of several organisations from the community, were protesting at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan seeking quota and pressurised the government to consider the Maratha reservation with forethought.
The Sena, who had assured the support for the Maratha Reservation Bill, chose to not react on the political move ahead of the elections by the ruling ally BJP in the state.
Ironically, on one hand, the state government is racking its brains on surveying the social and economic conditions of the Maratha community, which has been demanding reservation, while the state is facing a serious drought-like situation. Nonetheless, the upcoming elections will unveil all the raised questions behind the masterstroke by BJP!