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Sharad Pawar’s remarks on reservation evokes different reactions from caste outfits, political class

Pawar, while facing questions from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Wednesday, said reservation should be on economic criterion rather than based on caste, a clear departure from his earlier stand when he supported reservation for Marathas.

pune Updated: Feb 22, 2018 21:40 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar’s,caste outfits,political class
Raj Thackeray (left) and Sharad Pawar at 'Shodh Marathi Manacha' (15th Global Marathi Festival) at BMCC ground in Pune on Wednesday. (Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar’s change in track over the issue of reservation in jobs and education has evoked mix reactions from caste outfits and political class.

Pawar, while facing questions from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Wednesday, said reservation should be on economic criterion rather than based on caste, a clear departure from his earlier stand when he supported reservation for Marathas.

Replying to a question on various castes demanding reservation, Pawar in a special interview by Thackeray at Pune’s Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, said the time has come to think of reservation based on economic conditions rather than caste. “It is a sensitive issue. But I think barring Dalits and tribals, reservation should be given on economic criterion rather than caste.”

Pawar’s remarks have come against the backdrop of various castes, including Marathas, Dhangars and Lingayats demanding reservation. Reacting to Pawar’s remarks, Pravin Gaikwad, former head of Maratha outfit Sambhaji Brigade, said NCP chief’s statement is in the view of various castes and communities coming out on the street demanding reservation.

“In my view, however, reservation on the economic criterion may not be possible as it will require amendment in the Constitution. Practically too, it will be difficult to determine who is poor and who is rich so as to give reservation,” said Gaikwad, who was at the forefront of demanding reservation to Marathas.

It was the NCP-Congress government in 2014 that cleared 16% reservation for Marathas. The Bombay High Court while hearing a petition on reservation however turned it down following which the BJP government led by Devendra Fadnavis submitted a 1,200-page document in the court to argue the social and economic backwardness of the Maratha community.

Following reservation to Marathas, Dhangars and Lingayats too have come out on the streets in large number demanding reservation. Anand Dave, Pune district president for Akhil Bharatiya Brahmin Mahasangh (ABBM) expressed his happiness over NCP chief’s changed track.

“Pawar has finally endorsed our position. We have been demanding reservation on financial status rather than caste. Everyone who is poor should get it,” said Dave.

Meanwhile in Mumbai, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said if Pawar had adopted late Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s stand of giving reservation on economic criterion rather than caste, there would not have been divisions among the communities.

“Balasaheb always advocated economic criteria for reservation, but Pawar, as chief minister, did so on caste lines. Had Balasaheb’s advice been taken, we would not have seen divisions between various castes,” Uddhav said.

Sanjay Sonawani, author of several books and supporter of reservation for Dhangar community, said that some politicians are deliberately trying to create divisions in society by raking up such issues as the reservation of economic criterion will only upset Dalits and tribals.

“There is reservation in politics too. How are they going to give reservation based on economic status in politics. If Pawar is so much concerned, he can start from his own party by giving tickets to economically downtrodden class” Sonavani said.

Pawar’s nuanced position, according to political analysts, is the result of recent Maratha consolidation which led to polarisation of votes, eventually benefiting BJP in last year’s civic polls. Last year, Marathas came out on the streets in large numbers to demand reservation. Subsequently during civic polls held in 10 cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur, BJP performed well.

“I think his latest stand on reservation is more realistic as compared to 2014 when the NCP was fighting elections and Pawar had no option but to support the reservation based on caste given that large community such as Marathas were demanding it,” said Prakash Pawar, professor of political science at Shivaji University in Kolhapur.


Caste-based reservation

Reacting sharply to Pawar’s statement on reservation, Union minister of state for social welfare Ramdas Athavale said caste-based reservation will stay till there are castes in the country. “Those who want to stop caste-based reservation should work towards eliminating the caste system. We will upset every attempt to make reservation on economic criterion.”


Vidarbha statehood

NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s remarks on Vidarbha have irked protagonists of separate statehood to the region. In his interview to MNS chief Raj Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said demand for separate Vidarbha is being made only by non-Marathi speaking people, who want to rule the region.“The demand is mainly being made by Hindi speaking people. Those who are making the demand hope that once Vidarbha gets separate statehood status, they can rule the region,” said Pawar. Responding to Pawar’s remarks, former advocate general and staunch supporter of separate Vidarbha Shrihari Aney said, “Demand for separate Vidarbha isn’t based on language.”

First Published: Feb 22, 2018 21:39 IST