Realising that they cannot afford to ignore the Other Backward Class (OBC) in their bid to woo the Maratha community, the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party has now started wooing the former.
On Tuesday, it extended by a year the scheme of reimbursing tuition fees of OBC students. This will be in addition to the plan for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Unlike their SC/ST counterparts who will get the full tuition fee reimbursed, the OBC students, whose annual family income is below Rs 1 lakh, will be entitled for half of their annual fee.
A senior minister, who did not want to be named, said that the government could not afford to ignore OBCs that form the state’s largest vote bank.
“Every party wants OBCs to support it, especially when the government has promised to offer reservations to the Marathas on the lines of OBCs.”
The issue of Maratha reservation had assumed significance during the recent elections. Political experts felt that the issue affected the Lok Sabha poll results significantly in the Maratha-dominated areas. On the other hand, the Shiv Sena-BJP got more support from the OBCs.
Psephologist Uday Nirgudkar said that the Maratha reservation issue would again be on the agenda of the political parties during the Assembly elections.
As such, the ruling parties want to keep the other sections happy. Little wonder then that the tuition reimbursement is being applied to all courses including the professional ones such as engineering, medical and dental now being conducted by the government and private colleges across the state.
However, the scheme will not apply to deemed university students.
A bureaucrat in Mantralaya, requesting anonymity, said that the state would need Rs 1,200 crore for implementing the scheme in year 2009-10. “This will be the fourth year of the scheme because many students, especially of private colleges cannot afford high fees.”