Maratha protests: Has the Maharashtra government hit a stumbling block?
The sentiment in the BJP is these protests are politically motivated and will blow over in a couple of daysmumbai Updated: Jul 25, 2018 01:22 IST
The Devendra Fadnavis-led government seems to have hit a stumbling block with the Maratha protests, as it failed to get the protesters on the negotiating table a day ahead of Wednesday’s bandh in the city, after a similar bandh was carried out successfully in other parts of the state.
The government has also had little success in carrying out back channel talks with the organisers.
While the sentiment in the BJP is these protests are politically motivated and will blow over in a couple of days, there are indications the issue may fester given the gap between the government and the protesters.
The government believes it has addressed various demands of the community like offering freeship to the students from the community for higher education, loans for entrepreneurs, with only the demand for reservation pending in courts.
The agitators are, however, saying none of the demands promised by the government has been implemented on ground. “We are ready to hold talks with the agitators. As a government, we have everything possible. Only the issue of reservation is pending, which is solely in the hands of the court. By breaking vehicles will the community get reservation,” asked revenue minister and head of the cabinet sub-committee on Maratha reservation Chandrakant Patil. He said some anti-social elements had entered the agitation of late.
Such statements have not gone down well with the community. “The government has not approached us and even if they do, we don’t think there is anything to negotiate. We have expressed ourselves through the media and our main grouse is the government has failed to deliver on any of its promises made to the Maratha community, not just reservation. The government’s apathy has forced our youngsters to commit suicide and us to call bandhs,” said Virendra Pawar, one of the organisers of the protests.
He said, “None of the various promises made to us, from building hostels for Maratha students in every district to so-called freeship by providing 50% fees to economically backward students, has been implemented properly. We have to beg colleges to take our students and even then they demand a personal undertaking from us.”
The trigger for the protests, he said, was the decision to recruit 72,000 people in government jobs, even as the decision over reservation for the community is in limbo.
Addressing one of the concerns raised by the Maratha community, state education minister Vinod Tawde and member of the cabinet sub-committee on the Maratha reservation said colleges that failed to implement the freeship scheme announced by the government would face action.
“A nodal officer has been appointed to ensure that the Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj scholarship scheme will be implemented and every eligible Maratha student will get it. Colleges that are demanding 100% fees from students will have to face action,” said Tawde.
Besides Patil and Tawde, also both Marathas, talking on the issue, the government has not taken action so far. “There are multiple groups which are now participating in the protests and it is difficult to even pinpoint whom to have talks with. We also feel this is a political reaction ahead of the polls. Everyone knows which party is fanning the protests,” said a senior BJP leader
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar blamed irresponsible statements by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis (while refusing to go to Pandharpur for the puja) and Patil for inciting the Maratha community. The Congress alleged the BJP was purposely inciting the Marathas to create a gulf between them and the Other Backward Class in a bid to polarise the communities and reap electoral benefits.
First Published: Jul 25, 2018 01:14 IST