The one fallout of Narendra Modi’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections is that now there seems to be no limit to the greed and ambition of politicians of all hues. Modi made no bones about his hunger for power that made a sharp contrast with the reluctant prince Rahul Gandhi, who may have mistakenly believed that the sacrificial mould of his mother, Sonia Gandhi, still held water. But obviously India has moved on from those ancient values and traditions.
So now we have an open exhibition of desire from all and sundry. First MNS chief Raj Thackeray broke the family tradition by declaring he would contest the upcoming assembly elections and go for broke as chief ministerial candidate. Then Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, too, threw his hat into the ring, though he held himself back from a full-blown show of desperate ambition. Now it is Sharad Pawar, NCP president, who has suffered long years for making a premature bid for the post of prime minister in 1991 and has been paying a price for that ever since.
But no longer. The top job now is well and truly out of his reach but he can always try for a target closer home, can’t he? When he was chief minister of Maharashtra in the late 1980s, and then Prime Minister VP Singh was hell bent on implementing the Mandal Commission recommendations, Pawar had turned down the demand that the Maratha community be included in the category of the Other Backward Classes. The Marathas, whatever their claim to blue blood or OBC status (they could be both), have always been the ruling class in Maharashtra and not just before Independence. Since 1947, too, barring a couple of occasions, most chief ministers of the state have been Marathas and by no yardstick could they be referred to as backward or deprived. But for some years now, as Maratha disenchantment with the Congress and the NCP grew by leaps and bounds, Pawar’s party took the lead to introduce reservations for the Marathas and categorise them as ‘special backward classes’. That could very well stand the scrutiny of the courts. And, despite bitter opposition from a section of the Muslims within the Congress, the government justified that the quota for the Muslims is not religion-based but on the criterion of social and economic backwardness.
Quite a smart move that has proved to be. And what does Pawar have to say about such outright dissembling? Quite in your face but it is interesting that for once he speaks the truth. “We are no sadhus or saints. We will seize the advantage of whatever benefits us.”
This is what Pawar has actually been doing all these years, hasn’t he? But with Indians generally unappreciative of greed and grandeur among our politicians, such ambitions had to be cloaked in the garb of concern for the less-advantaged people in the country. However, what I find interesting is that the Congress-NCP combine has gone ahead with these reservations despite the bitter opposition from the rank and file. Many Congress workers are worried that an adverse court ruling against the ordinance would do their party more damage than good in the coming elections.
If the Maharashtra government wants the reservations to stand, it should have the decision ratified by the assembly at the soonest. Otherwise, the ordinance would lapse at the end of six months, and elections are due before that time period. If the Congress-NCP combine doesn’t return to power, the next government most likely will not be interested in providing reservations to the Muslims. So it will allow the Maratha reservations to lapse as well.
The move is clearly targeted at short-term gains with just the elections in mind. It is clearly a cynical means of benefitting even the few poor among the Marathas. But who cares? Avarice and cupidity have become the bywords these days and putting self before others the new mantra. Why should the politicians be left behind?