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Maharashtra CM holds meet, Maratha outfit plans next phase of protest

The Maratha agitation took sharp turn towards violence on July 23, when 28-year-old Kakasaheb Shinde performed “jal samadhi” by jumping into the Godavari and committing suicide

mumbai Updated: Jul 27, 2018 10:24 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
Police take away the car that was burnt by protesters during the Maratha agitation in Kopar Khairane on Wednesday.(Bachchan Kumar/HT)

While the issue of 16% reservation for Marathas rests with Bombay High Court, the pressure is building on chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to ease the tension brewing within the community.

On Thursday, a late-night meeting was held at the residence of education minister Vinod Tawde. Besides Fadnavis and Tawde, the meeting was attended by ministers Chandrakant Patil, Subhash Deshmukh, Ranjit Patil, Ravindra Chavan, Babanrao Lonikar and Girish Mahajan. Barring Fadnavis and Mahajan, all the ministers are from the Maratha community and members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). State BJP chief Raosaheb Danve and city BJP chief Ashish Shelar too attended the meeting. However, Shiv Sena ministers were not invited. “We have not been called for the meeting. It is an important issue and it should be discussed with everybody,” said a Sena minister, requesting anonymity.

The Maratha agitation took sharp turn towards violence on July 23, when 28-year-old Kakasaheb Shinde performed “jal samadhi” by jumping into the Godavari and committing suicide.

Nanasaheb Kute Patil of Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM) told HT, “We will not rest till our demands are met and the agitation will continue with more force.” MKM has organised 58 silent marches for Maratha reservation over the past two years and had called for yesterday’s Mumbai bandh, which turned violent after splinter groups took over the protests in Navi Mumbai. One bystander died of injuries sustained during the agitation and a 48-hour internet shutdown has been enforced in the area.

Patil regrets the mayhem that was caused in suburban Mumbai, but remains committed to the protest. “We will ensure such violent incidents do not occur in our next phase,” said Patil.

Meanwhile, two more legislators announced they would resign to show their support for Maratha reservation: Bharat Bhalke a Congress legislator from Pandharpur in Solapur district and Rahul Aher a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Chandwad in Nashik district. Yesterday Harshvardhan Jadhav (Shiv Sena) and Bhausaheb Patil Chikatgaonkar (Nationalist Congress Party) had offered their resignations for the same reason.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray said chief minister Devendra Fadnavis should step down if his government is unable to fulfill the aspirations of the people. “It is clear that the state government has failed in maintaining law and order. The irresponsible statements are testimony to this fact. Now again they will give false assurances and prolong the issue. If the State is unable to heed to the aspirations of the people they should step down instead of playing with the emotions of the people,” said Thackeray.

NCP’s Sharad Pawar has also criticised Fadnavis’s handling of the Maratha protests.

Speaking at a function in Uttan, Fadnavis said, “The BJP government has made a very sincere and serious effort to ensure reservation to the Maratha community. We remain committed to the issue. Some political leaders are trying to use the Maratha reservation issue for political gains. But, party workers should reach out and convey the government’s efforts to the people.”

Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said the agitation is bound to intensify. “It is almost election year and we will now see more social and political pressure on the politicians, especially from those hailing from the Maratha community. No political party can afford to antagonise the politically-influential Maratha community,” said Jondhale.

First Published: Jul 27, 2018 01:12 IST