OBCs write to Maharashtra CM Fadnavis, fear their quota may be cut

Reservations in Maharashtra already add up to 52%, which is more than the Supreme Court-mandated cap of 50%.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis speaks during an administrative review meeting, in Akola on November 14.(PTI Photo)
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis speaks during an administrative review meeting, in Akola on November 14.(PTI Photo)
Updated on Nov 20, 2018 08:58 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, | ByKetaki Ghoge

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s attempt to keep the Other Backward Classes (OBC) happy while granting the Maratha community reservation may be too tight a rope to walk, according to early responses from multiple OBC leaders.

A day after the state cabinet accepted the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission’s report that endorsed the social, educational and financial backwardness of the Marathas, and decided to grant them reservation under a separate category, OBC leaders said they fear the move will reduce the quota they are entitled to.

Reservations in Maharashtra already add up to 52%, which is more than the Supreme Court-mandated cap of 50%.

The state plans to provide 16% reservation to Marathas under a separate class, called the Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC), by making use of an exception in the Supreme Court’s ruling that said rules may need to be relaxed in case of extraordinary situations.

OBC leaders — the community constitutes 52% of the state’s population and gets 27% reservation — have opposed the creation of this separate SEBC category for Marathas, who are 32% of the population.

A section of the Marathas — the Kunbi-Marathas or the community’s peasant class — is already entitled to 8% reservation under the OBC category.

The OBC community is divided into more than 300 castes, and its leaders are coming together to oppose the government’s reservation, and explore legal options.

“We don’t want our OBC quota of 27% (which includes the nomadic tribes sub-category) to be touched. Further, our demand to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is to remove the Kunbi-Marathas from the OBC quota and include them in this special category for Marathas,” said Anil Mahajan, an OBC leader and the president of the Maharashtra Mali Mahasangh (MMM). Mahajan said many from the OBC community are against the 16% quota for Marathas. “We are against it, unless the OBC reservation is doubled given that our population is nearly 60%.”

The MMM, a group that represents malis (gardeners), one of the prominent OBC castes, has written a letter to Fadnavis opposing the reservation.

Ironically, the BJP government created the separate reservation category for Marathas to avoid alienating the larger OBC community ahead of the 2019 election year. The OBCs have traditionally supported the BJP in Maharashtra, while the Marathas have been seen more as the Congress-NCP vote base.

On Monday, a section of backward class leaders, including Haribhau Rathod, a legislator, and former MLA Prakash Shendge (Dhangar or shephard community leader) met. They plan to set up a meeting with Opposition leaders on Tuesday, before finally meeting the CM and arranging a convention of all OBC leaders in Pune.

“By classifying Marathas under SEBC, the chief minister has cleared the decks for this community’s inclusion within the OBCs,” said Rathod. “In our constitution, OBC is not a separate term, and all references are to socially and educationally backward classes. Further, the government will not be able to justify the separate category for reservation in the courts, or extend the quota beyond the 50% ceiling,” Bhau said.

“The result will be that Marathas will get included in the OBC category, but, to go beyond the 50% cap, the government has to show this community has suffered social injustices and stigma, or has been exploited. How do Marathas fall in this bracket?” Bhau said.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2021