The Maratha lobby in the state government seems determined to get reservations for its community. Often called the state’s ruling class, with a number of members in top government posts, they have been demanding reservations in education, jobs and politics. And their demand has been getting shriller in the run-up to the polls.
On Wednesday, they won a minor victory, with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan confirming that the state will forward the Marathas’ demands to the newly appointed Saraf Commission, despite their claims being rejected by the earlier Bapat Commision.
This is the first time the state government has rejected the findings of the Maharashtra Backward Class Commission, appointed every three years as per a court ruling.
“We have referred the Bapat Commission report back to the Saraf Commission. We have asked them to examine the demands again because new issues have resurfaced,” said Chavan. “We have neither rejected nor accepted the [Bapat Commission] report.”
The Bapat Commission had examined the community’s demand and ruled that it did not need reservations.
Even more telling, nine commissions prior to Bapat have similarly refused to grant reservations to the politically powerful community.
And there’s a reason why.
Official records reveal that the community owns 54 per cent of the state’s educational institutes, run more than 86 sugar cooperatives and 23 district cooperative banks and makes up over 50 per cent of the state’s legislators.
The politically controversial issue may now lead to a split in the state Cabinet, with Maratha leaders pitted against Other Backward Class leaders.
Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, one of the state’s most popular OBC leaders, declined comment. But he had earlier made it clear that reservations for Marathas must not dilute the existing 30 per cent quota for OBCs.
This is virtually impossible, since the court has capped quotas at 50 per cent. In Maharashtra, 20 per cent slots are reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and 30 per cent for Other Backward Classes.