With an eye on the upcoming election the Congress-NCP led Democratic Front government has announced 16 per cent reservation for the Maratha community and 5 per cent quota for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions. The decision taken to appease both these communities might face legal trouble as the Supreme Court has already ordered that reservations can’t exceed more than 50 per cent. After the government’s new directive the reservation in the state has already reached 73 per cent.
The state government is sceptical about whether the reservation will face legal scrutiny. On the other hand, the Other Backward Class (OBC) groups are opposing the quota and are likely to challenge it. Marathas comprise around 30 per cent of the state population and have traditionally been known to vote for the Congress-NCP. Most of the leaders belonging to the Democratic Front government belong to Maratha community who hail from Western Maharasthra known as the state’s sugar belt.
“The OBC community is feeling insecure. The state claims there are 32 per cent Marathas, and has given them 16 per cent reservation. But the OBC population is around 50 per cent, why is our quota only 19 per cent?” asked Hanumant Upre of the Satyashodhak OBC Parishad.
He added, “The new reservations go beyond the permissible legal limit. We have planned agitations and will also consider going to court.”
BJP claimed that the religion based Muslim quota in Maharashtra, proposed by NCP-Congress alliance government, is unconstitutional.
“We do not support reservation on the lines of religion and the Constitution also does not permit this,” said BJP’s Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Vinod Tawde.
“Sharad Pawar has been conducting meetings for 7-8 hours everyday and has taken control in his own hands. He knows that power is slipping out of his hands, which is why he is using these communal cards,” he said.
The NCP on the other hand has said that the decision has been taken after examining all the legal aspects.
NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said, “The decision will stand in the courts as all legal aspects have been examined.”
“Even though BJP-Sena has partially supported the reservation move, the opposition parties are likely to indirectly target the government through a PIL against the Maratha and Muslim reservation,” he alleged.
Before considering Maratha quota, a committee was formed by Chavan to analyse the socio-economic condition of the community. Industries minister Narayan Rane, the committee head, had confirmed that the Maratha quotas would be implemented keeping in view the interest of OBCs.
NCP leader Majid Memon defended the Democratic Front government’s decision to announce reservation and said the condition of the Muslims is worse than that of Dalits in the country.
“Reservation should be given to Muslims. In fact, Rangarajan, the chief justice of India also mentioned the need for Muslim reservation in the Rangarajan committee. However, if later people feel that it is not necessary, we can take it back,” said Memon.
Maharashtra Minority Affairs Minister Mohammed Arif Naseem Khan termed as “historic and revolutionary” the state government’s decision to provide 5 per cent reservation to Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions.
“Several surveys had mentioned about socio-economic as well as educational backwardness of Muslim community. The Sachhar panel of Central government and Rahman panel of the state government have also highlighted the same,” he said.