While balancing the caste equation, the Devendra Fadnavis government has also reduced the dominance of the Marathas, the caste that has been dominating Maharashtra politics for almost two decades.
The 39-member cabinet has less than 50% members from the Maratha community, while comprising representatives from various other communities, including Brahmins, tribals and the other backward classes (OBC).
The third round of the cabinet expansion, which took place on Friday, saw six non-Maratha ministers, from the 11 ministers inducted or promoted. The total number of ministers from the Maratha community is 15 in Fadnavis’ team of 39.
The previous Congress and Nationalist Congress Party governments always had more number of Maratha ministers in their cabinet.
According to analysts, the percentage of the ministers from the Maratha community used to be about 60, which has dropped to less than 50 now. “On the backdrop of the Mandal commission recommendations and their implementation and owing to the caste-less politics of the Shiv Sena, the 1995-99 saffron government had quite a significant caste balance. Three subsequent governments were dominated by the Maratha community,” an analyst said, on the condition of anonymity.
The Fadnavis cabinet has three Brahmins including Fadnavis, members from Kunbi, Teli and Komati communities that come under the OBC, from Matang as well as Bauddha communities, which falls under scheduled caste and ministers from the tribal communities.
“Congress-NCP used the name of Shahu Maharaj, Jotiba Phule and Dr B R Ambedkar for political gain, but never implemented their agenda during their rule. I wonder if the new allegations being made over Peshwas (prime ministers of the Maratha kingdom who were Brahmins), ruling the state is because the ‘ruling caste’ has realised that the politics of development has overpowered caste-based politics,” said Hari Narke, a political science commentator, who heads the Mahatma Phule chair at Pune University.
Prakash Bal, another political analyst, however, has refused to term the government move an attempt at social engineering.
“It’s not social engineering, but opportunism and helplessness as the BJP does not have any Maratha leader with a mass following. Vinod Tawde and Chandrakant Patil are from the community, but do not enjoy any following. I don’t think the BJP or the Shiv Sena will benefit from the attempt as it is just a tokenism.”
According to a government gazetteer issued in 2009, the Maratha community comprises 16% of the state’s population.Community leaders claim it to be 32% as Kunbis are in some parts counted as Marathas, while in Vidarbha, the sub-caste of Kunbis are considered as OBCs.