Even as the ongoing Maratha protest rallies have seen record turnouts, unrest among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and minorities is growing. Now, the OBCs plan a rally in Nashik on October 3 and Muslim organisations and NGOs held a meeting here on Monday to push for the 5 per cent reservation cleared by the former Congress-NCP government and upheld by the Bombay High Court.
The OBCs’ October 3 rally is in the hometown of former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who is in jail on corruption charges, and his supporters are touting it as a show of strength, but others see it more as an expression of the disquiet over the Marathas’ moves. The rally will reflect the unease among the 362 castes, which enjoy 27% of the reservation in the state and constitute nearly xx % of Maharashtra’s population, over the prospect of a quota for Marathas eating into their share.
“After Gopinath Munde’s death and action against Bhujbal, the OBCs are feeling isolated due to a leadership vacuum and the threat of reduction of our existing reservation. Some OBC organisations do not want to come out openly in support of a tainted leader, but they have announced their support in the interest of the community,” said a OBC leader privy to the developments.
The OBC organisations have avoided taking to the streets as it would be construed as a counter to Maratha rallies, vitiating the atmosphere in the state. Now Bhujbal’s supporters plan to use the October 3 rally to press for his release after six months in jail. They started mobilizing only after key leaders such as Pankaja Munde, Praful Patel, and Supriya Sule visited Bhujbal in hospital in the last few days.
“All the OBC organisations are joining the rally and at the same time Bhujbal’s supporters from across communities have announced their backing. OBCs feel the action against Bhujbal is vindictive and unjust,” said Bapu Bhujbal, NCP leader and a Bhujbal supporter.
After the Nashik rally, OBC organisations plan two more protest elsewhere in the state.
Political observers say the OBC rallies may ease the pressure built up by the Maratha rallies on the government led by Devendra Fadnavis, who is a Brahmin. The BJP is wary of Maratha unrest affecting it in the upcoming elections to10 municipal corporations and 26 district council to be held between November 2016 and March 2017.
Muslim organisations are also consolidating to ensure their demand for reservation is not ignored. Legislators from leading political parties, social organisations working for the cause of Muslims and organisations representing ulemas and priests attended the meeting held at the Islam gymkhana on Monday evening.
“Even after the High Court quashed the reservation given to Marathas, there is a huge outcry by that community, but nobody is talking about the 5% reservation for Muslims in education upheld by the court. We will push for restoration of the quota,” said Congress legislator Amin Patel.
Hari Narke, who is the Mahatma Phule chair at Pune University, said, “Though the Maratha rallies are organised peacefully, they have led to unrest in other communities and disturbed the social fabric of the society.”