A day after the Bombay high court stayed the 16% reservation in education and jobs for the dominant Maratha community, the BJP government rushed to get the quota for Marathas and Muslims regularised by the Supreme Court. The HC also stayed the 5% reservation for 50 Muslim communities in public employment, but allowed them to avail of the quota in education.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who chaired an all-party meeting, said the state would approach the SC after thoroughly studying the HC order.
The Maratha community constitutes more than 30% of the state’s population. Inviting their ire, sources said, would result in a major problem for any political party, particularly the BJP, which performed well in certain Maratha-dominated areas such as the west and north of the state, but did not win them over in central Maharashtra.
In a bid to get political dividends ahead of the Assembly polls, the previous Congress-NCP government, which had been promising the Marathas reservation for the past decade, got it passed earlier this year.
Now, it is for the BJP to appease the community by going all out to win the case in the Supreme Court.
“We will set up a cabinet sub-committee and a panel of all-party leaders, in addition to a committee of experts, to take decisions in this regard,” Fadnavis said after the meeting.
The CM said the discrepancies the HC pointed out while staying the previous government’s decision will be corrected by amending the law in the upcoming winter session.
“We are committed to the cause of reservations,” Fadnavis said, while asking affected communities not to stage violent agitations.
The experts’ committee is expected to specifically study the Narayan Rane panel’s recommendations that were shot down by the court, as it contained a number of loopholes.
Rane on Friday said the current government did not represent its side in the case before the court. However, education minister Vinod Tawde told HT the court had in fact heard the case when the Congress-led government was in power.
“The allegation is baseless as the HC reserved its decision on September 19, and issued the order on November 14,” Tawde said.
All major parties, except the Nationalist Congress Party, attended Saturday’s meeting. NCP chief Sharad Pawar told news channels the government should respect the court’s decision, before deciding any further action.
Maratha outfit Shiv Sangram’s leader Vinayak Mete, who is BJP’s pre-poll ally, said Rane’s report could not have been entirely wrong. “If Rane did not do his job well, how did the court consider his report to allow quota for Muslims?” Mete said.
“The BJP government has promised to do all it can to get the HC’s verdict overruled. I’m confident Muslims too will get reservations in government jobs,” said Congress MLA Naseem Khan.