Maratha quota setback in Supreme Court may hurt Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi govt
The scrapping of the Maratha quota could be a major setback for the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could use the unrest in the influential community against the ruling coalition, said political experts.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray will write to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting them to take a decision on Maratha reservation.
“I am requesting the Prime Minister and President to take a decision on Maratha reservation as the Supreme Court has also acknowledged that it comes under their authority,” Thackeray said in his address on Wednesday evening.
The chief minister requested Marathas to exercise peace and restraint as the state is in the midst of a pandemic. He asked them not to get provoked. “The SC verdict is disappointing as it has said that the state doesn’t have powers to give reservation… But it has also shown us a way by saying that the Centre and President has powers to grant reservation to a community. I am sure that the PM or the Centre will not disrespect this demand as it is not of just a community but of entire Maharashtra,” he said.
Marathas, who make up nearly 32% of the state population, are a strong force in the state both politically and socially.
Mansing Pawar, one of the organisers of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, said there were two options: increase the ceiling of reservation quota which the central government could do, or the state government incorporate Marathas in the Other Backward Class category. “The central government will have to think of making an amendment to increase reservation quota from 50% and above to grant reservation to the Maratha community. The other option is that the state government can make Maratha community part of OBC category to grant reservation,” he said.
State minister Ashok Chavan, who heads the cabinet sub-committee on Maratha reservation, said then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis misled the people on quota issues by passing it without due right. Fadnavis and other BJP leaders held the MVA government responsible for quashing of the reservation.
Political analysts said the BJP will use the verdict to its advantage to corner the MVA politically. “The bill and subsequent law were passed during their government, but still they will make the argument emotional to fire up the Maratha youths. Whether there is any major election or not, the unrest will be engineered,” said Pratap Asbe, a political analyst.
Another analyst Surendra Jondhale said that although the BJP enjoyed support of many Maratha leaders, it needed to be seen if Maratha youth come under their influence.
“The BJP will attempt to mobilise the Marathas and make an issue out of it. Fadnavis has played an ambiguous role in the quota issue. Interestingly, [BJP MP] Sambhaji Maharaj has taken a stand that both governments pursued the matter and he accepted the verdict. The response of Maratha youths to the BJP will be important now,” said Jondhale, a former professor at Mumbai University.
According to a Congress leader, the SC verdict may have long-standing political repercussions. “The BJP has been painting a picture that they had given the reservation to the community, but the three-party government could not safeguard it. It is now very difficult to regain it by filing a review petition and next to impossible to include them in other backward classes. The conclusion is the reservation was struck down, when the parties with strong Maratha base are at helm of affairs. The effect may be felt in the upcoming local body elections,” said the leader, requesting anonymity.