Following Sharad Pawar’s move to cut Maratha flab from the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Cabinet team, the Congress is under pressure to reduce the dominance of Maratha leaders in its own team.
In a reshuffle on Tuesday, NCP reduced its Maratha number to seven ministers from 10, to make way for other backward classes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and nomadic tribes.
On the other hand, Congress’ team of 20 continues to have 10 Marathas. To the dismay of several aspirants, the Congress hasn’t filled three vacancies in the last four years. In the 43-member council of ministers, the Congress has a quota of 23, while NCP has 20.
Sources in the Congress said that the party high command has, for a while now, been thinking of dropping some Maratha ministers so that legislators from other communities can be accommodated before the 2014 assembly polls next October. “Currently, Maratha leaders constitute 50% of the Congress’ total quota. It could be brought down to 30-35% like the NCP,” said a senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity.
Another leader said that the despite being a Maratha-dominated outfit, the NCP thought of accommodating such a large number of non-Marathas, and that the Congress needs to take a page out of their book. “It happened for the first time since the two parties came to power in 1999. The Congress too needs to be liberal in inducting more OBCs, Dalits and minorities.”
Muslim leaders said that their community felt cheated because they did not have enough representation in the Cabinet. Baba Siddique from Mumbai, Muzaffar Hussain from Mira Road and former minister Abdul Sattar from Aurangabad are lobbying hard for berths in the Muslim quota.
A Maratha section in the party said that the best way to resolve the issue was to fill the three vacancies. “Filling vacancies with non-Marathas should be in addition to making changes to the existing team because it would automatically strengthen the social balance,” he said.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told HT last week that creating social and regional balance in a reshuffle or expansion, if any, would be his priority.