Even as Maratha protesters walked in silence in Baramati, the home town of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, the community strongman decided to stay away. The march began around 11.30am and saw participation of Sharad Pawar’s relatives although NCP chief’s daughter Supriya Sule and his nephew Ajit preferred not to attend the rally at Baramati, which has a large population of Dhangars and other OBC communities.
Sharad Pawar instead called for a meeting with senior party leaders in Mumbai.
NCP party leaders said that Pawar plans to discuss the current political scenario and review preparations for the upcoming municipal corporation and zilla parishad elections to be held by February and March next year. This is the first such taluka-level rally being held by Maratha protesters , who started their silent marches following the brutal rape and murder of a girl in Kopardi in Ahmednagar district of Western Maharashtra.
Political observers feel the absence of Sharad Pawar, nephew Ajit and Sule in the march at Baramati indicated their cautious stand to not to make it obvious that NCP is behind the current unrest in Maratha community. Maratha outfits such as Sambhaji Brigade and Maratha Seva Sangh are mainly behind organising various rallies although political circles are abuzz about the NCP’s hand in galvanising the Maratha community, which forms the party’s core vote bank.
A large number of youngsters and women holding placards about the demands of Maratha community participated in the rally that began from the main Kasba area of Baramati, which is being represented in Lok Sabha by Sule and state assembly by Ajit. In the past three decades, Pawar senior has represented Baramati at the centre and state.
According to organisers, around 2,500 volunteers ensured that the march was held in a disciplined planner. The Maratha march came in the backdrop of Pawar family’s aggressive stand against BJP and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Speaking recently, Pawar senior said the government should ensure at the earliest that Maratha community gets reservation without disturbing the OBC quota. Ajit Pawar, who participated in the march at Pune, said, “Despite lakhs of Marathas coming out on the street, the Fadnavis government is not doing anything to address the problems of the community.”
Scores of Marathas have participated in silent marches across the state demanding reservation for the community, amendments in the atrocities act and capital punishment to perpetrators of the Kopardi crime.