Proving that there’s not much space in politics for issues that don’t rake in the votes, the Nationalist Congress Party has so far maintained a stoic silence on the issue of reservations for Marathas.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the party couldn’t talk enough about how the Marathas — already a politically powerful and reasonably wealthy community — nonetheless deserved to be included in the Other Backward Caste (OBC) category.
With a large votebank in the community, they had hoped this would bring in some extra votes.
Instead, it seemed to have the opposite effect.
The highly polarised OBC community turned against the NCP; the move also upset voters in the open category.
In the end, the NCP won a mere eight of the 21 seats it contested — down from nine in the previous national election.
Now, the long-standing Maratha demand for reservations in government jobs and educational institutions is finding no takers in the party.
“The attempt by the NCP to secure the Maratha votebank proved counter-productive,” says political analyst Prakash Pawar. “This time around, the party has been forced to leave the issue on the backburner.”
The Lok Sabha election results also showed that the NCP’s loss was the Shiv Sena’s gain in some places.
Seeing an opportunity here, the saffron party is now aiming to strengthen its base through an all-inclusive Marathi and Hindutva agenda.
NCP leaders, however, insist the party has not given up the issue. “It was in our manifesto then and will remain during the Assembly polls too,” said NCP spokesperson Ankush Kakade, adding: “The party may not fight the election on the reservation issue as, in state polls, other issues dominate.”