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Maratha quota: Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati meets Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar to’ reduce divide’

Member of Parliament from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati – who has taken an initiative to bring back Maratha reservation after the Apex court scrapped it – met Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, who is the great grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, on Saturday to discuss the issue
UPDATED ON MAY 30, 2021 01:26 AM IST

Member of Parliament from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati – who has taken an initiative to bring back Maratha reservation after the Apex court scrapped it – met Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, who is the great grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, on Saturday to discuss the issue. Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, who has been meeting several leaders from the state, said that the idea behind meeting Ambedkar was to reduce the “divide” among the two communities.

“Our outlook [for the meeting] was to look at reducing the divide between the communities. I belong to the lineage of Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, while he is from the lineage of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar... If Shahu Maharaj and Dr Ambedkar could come together, why can’t Prakash Ambedkar and Sambhaji Chhatrapati,” Sambhajiraje said in a joint press conference with Ambedkar after the meeting. Sambhajiraje is a descendant of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Outlining the connect between the two leaders, he further said, “Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj was the first to give reservation to the Bahujan Samaj. Later, Dr Ambedkar brought it in the Constitution. It was Dr Ambedkar’s wish to provide quota for the Maratha community. Till 1967, Marathas got reservation in the Central list under the OBC (Other Backward Classes) quota. Later, several commissions were set, and Marathas were excluded as forward or dominating class and the quota was removed.”

Having deviated from the party line on the issue, Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati has put forth a three-point demand before the Maharashtra government. He has called for the filing of a review petition in the Supreme Court on it earlier decision to scrap the quota as well as a curative petition, and approaching the President through the Maharashtra Governor.

The BJP MP added that the state government will now have to make a “fool-proof” plan again to secure the quota for the community through Article 342 (A) of the Constitution, wherein the President may recommend the reservation for the community. Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati expressed confidence that the Raj Bhavan, despite its frosty relations with the state government, will forward the proposal.

“He [Governor] will have to do it. According to [Article] 342(A), the Governor will write to the President and, if the latter is inclined, will send the report to the backward class commission, following which it will be kept before the Parliament. For that, a fool-proof planning will be needed again. The shortcoming in the Gaikwad Commission [which recommended the quota earlier] will have to be scrutinised, which will take five-six months. Overall, the situation is quite conducive. Otherwise, there is an alternative of a review petition,” he said.

Considering review petitions are usually rejected, there is also an option of a curative petition, said Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati.

In an indirect reference to BJP-backed agitations for the quota, Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati added that people should not be held hostage by staging protests. and that elected representatives should find a way.

“There is no point in holding people hostage on this matter now. Whatever the members of the community wanted to say, they have done it through 58 agitations. Now the matter is legal, and the elected representatives, including myself, will have to find a way out,” Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati said when asked about protests planned by BJP legislator Vinayak Mete.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said that Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati should meet Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi over the issue as the Centre can decide on the reservation. Raut said that Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati is a well-respected leader in Maharashtra, and the government has heard him on the issue.

“He is meeting prominent leaders including [Nationalist Congress Party chief] Sharad Pawar, [Maharashtra chief minister] Uddhav Thackeray, [state minister from Congress] Ashok Chavan and [leader of Opposition from BJP] Devendra Fadnavis. But he should meet PM Modi because this issue is no longer in the hands of the state, but rests with the Centre. All political parties and its leaders are in sync with the sentiments of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje. We should all go to the PM and Modi must take a decision. PM holds the cards for it,” Raut said.

When asked why the PM has not chosen to meet him over the issue, Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati said, “It could be due to Covid-related reasons or maybe his predicament over the issue. We are MPs and I will attempt to express my sentiments over the issue.”

Meanwhile, after the meeting with Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, Ambedkar sought to corner Pawar on the issue. He said the Maratha strongman has not taken a clear stance on the quota issue for the community.

“I have seen Pawar’s political journey for the past 40 years. His stand is always narova, kunjarova [a phrase from Mahabharat that loosely translates as non-committal]. On the Maratha reservation, too, he has followed the same. He meets CM without having a stand, but demands the implementation of the quota. On some issues, narova kunjarova is fine. But on issues such as the Maratha reservation, there needs to be a clear stand. We expect that he will take a stand soon either for or against the quota.”

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