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Fadnavis in catch-22 situation as Maratha march rolls on

PUBLISHED ON SEP 28, 2016 07:41 AM IST

MUMBAI: Will Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis meet the same fate as his Gujarat counterpart Anandiben Patel?

As the BJP-led government completes two years next month, Fadnavis is facing one of his biggest challenges so far in the form of the silent Maratha uprising in Maharashtra similar to the Patel agitation in Gujarat (minus the violence) that ultimately cost Anandiben her job.

Last week, as the Maratha silent rallies touched 20 districts, rumours were triggered about Fadnavis’ ouster in favour of a state minister, a Maratha, like public works minister Chandrakant Patil, considered close to BJP president Amit Shah. The rumours are unfounded, at least at this stage. Patil, the CM-candidate, himself was asked to refute this as speculation.

But it’s clear Fadnavis is rattled, perhaps to the glee of some of his own ministers. That’s why he chose to voice this speculation himself at a rally in Navi Mumbai recently, saying he didn’t really care how long he would stay in the top job as long as he worked every single day to bring transformation to the state. The reasons for Fadnavis’ worries are manifold, but chief among them is that as a Brahmin chief minister, he has no real community constituency and is faced with the angst of a dominant community that makes up 32% of the state’s population.

What makes the problems worse is there is no way to really meet the two central demands — special reservation for Marathas in jobs and education and review of the Atrocity Act — made by the community. Fadnavis has repeatedly made overtures for holding talks with protesters, but Maharashtra does not have its own Hardik Patel. As one of the Mar at ha leaders told HT, “There is nothing to discuss and our protests don’t have leaders. The CM knows our demands and he should just declare they will be met.’’

“For the CM it’s a catch-22 situation. And even though these are faceless protests, they are backed and funded by Mar at ha politicians from the Congress and NCP, who are feeling threatened about losing their hold on power structures,’’ said analyst Surendra Jondhale.

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