A big victory for Maha BJP govt
Marathas, who make up around 32% of the state’s population, were traditionally seen as the support base of the Congress and NCP.Updated: Jun 28, 2019 06:54 IST
The Bombay high court’s (HC) decision validating reservation granted to the Maratha community in Maharashtra is a big win for the saffron government, just three months ahead of the Assembly polls.
The verdict will compound troubles for the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) opposition, after the rout they suffered in the Lok Sabha polls. The Opposition won only five seats, against the BJP-Sena’s 42, of the total 48 seats in the elections.
Marathas, who make up around 32% of the state’s population, were traditionally seen as the support base of the Congress and NCP. The verdict now poses a challenge for the Opposition to retain the support of this group, which has been tilting towards the BJP-Sena.
For the Devendra Fadnavis-led government, the HC decision will be a bragging point during the elections, as it comes on the back of the former government’s failure to do the same. In 2014, the Congress-NCP government’s ordinance granting reservation to the community was stayed by the High Court.
The win is significant also because the reservation to Marathas comes without affecting the Other Backward Class (OBC) quota in the state. OBCs form the traditional support base of the BJP and is said to be make up around 50% of the population. “We have won a big battle because we have been able to provide reservation to Marathas without disturbing the OBC quota. The HC has upheld our reservation and competence of legislature and it has accepted the data and findings of the Backward Class commission,” said Fadnavis, after the verdict.
The NCP, led by former Union minister Sharad Pawar, which is seen as a party of Marathas since its inception in 1999, is likely to be the most hit with this court verdict. The Congress, which has been steadily losing support of this community since the formation of the NCP and post 2014, also loses out, as it cannot rely on wooing the Marathas back to their fold now ahead of the state polls.
“Our post-poll surveys showed us that in 2014 and more so in the 2019 general polls, Marathas voted for the saffron parties. The 2019 poll results show the community has backed the way the state government handled the reservation issue. The Fadnavis government has been quick on its feet and responsive. But, even then nearly 30% of the community vote went to the NCP. This support base of the NCP could now get even more eroded with this court verdict,” said professor Nitin Birmal, political analyst and the state co-ordinator for Lokniti, research programme for the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).
Birmal pointed out the CSDS Lokniti post poll survey in 2019 showed that 65.8% of the community had voted for the BJP-Sena, while 30% voted for the NCP. In 2014, the CSDS Lokniti post poll survey had shown that 52% of the community voted for the saffron parties. “We will have to put up new faces and from across the communities to change the perception that we are a party of Marathas. This verdict does add to our troubles ahead of the Assembly polls,” said a senior NCP leader, who did not want to be named. He admitted that if the verdict had gone against the Maratha community, the NCP could have definitely got a poll issue and an upper hand in the polls.
The Opposition, on the whole, played down the court verdict on Thursday. “The verdict is a credit to the Sakal Maratha Samaj that carried out an impressive campaign for reservation. This decision is a culmination of a legal process that was started by our government in 2014. We will continue to demand that similar reservation should be granted to Muslims and Dhangars (shepherd community) as was promised to them earlier,” said state Congress chief Ashok Chavan. The Congress is likely to take this as a poll position to win support among these communities. It remains to be seen if they will win dividends from this poll plank. In the recently concluded polls, OBCs especially Dhangar support had gone to BJP and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi.
While OBCs are unlikely to be happy with this verdict, the community has very little to be angry with the ruling government. The Dhangars have also been placated, as the government has promised and budgeted for them all development schemes on lines with tribals. The Dhangars in Maharashtra have been demanding inclusion in the ST quota.
First Published: Jun 28, 2019 06:54 IST