Mumbai: The BJP-led Maharashtra government had purposefully kept away revenue and police personnel belonging to the Maratha community from the bandobast duty during the ongoing quota stir, a senior Congress leader alleged today. Citing “reliable sources”, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said inquiries had been made about the caste of the police and revenue officials before the Maratha quota stir began.
“Those belonging to the Maratha community were kept away from the bandobast duties, which is a shameful act,” Vikhe Patil said in a statement. “This is a blot on a progressive state like Maharashtra. The government should apologise for this act,” the Congress leader demanded.
As the quota stir escalated, the Congress today demanded that a one-day special session of the state legislature be convened to announce reservation for the Maratha community. He questionned the “delay” on part of the state government in reaching out to the protesters from the Maratha community.
Vikhe-Patil blamed the “insulting statement” made by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for the violent reaction of the Marathas. “Fadnavis’ statement on the eve of ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’ (on July 22) was insulting to Marathas. He is responsible for the prevailing situation. He should accept moral responsibility and quit,” the Congress leader said.
Announcing cancellation of his annual visit to Pandharpur, the chief minister had on Sunday said, “police had intercepted some messages, like ‘will release snakes among devotees’, ‘could create a situation that would lead to stampede’, among others”. Such kind of plans are being worked out”.
Vikhe Patil also lashed out at the Shiv Sena accusing it of adopting “double standards” on the quota issue.
“On one hand, the Shiv Sena is occupying the position of power along with the BJP while on the other hand Sena minister Subhash Desai holds Fadnavis responsible for the delay in granting reservations,” he said. Meanwhile, addressing a press conference, Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan demanded that a special session of the state legislature be convened.
“The government has the report of the Rane committee which had made a detailed study of the economic and social conditions of the Marathas. We fail to understand what is stopping the government from implementing that report by enacting a proper law,” he said.
Chavan said the state government had not filed an affidavit in court on the quota issue in the last 17 months.
“This is nothing but a delaying tactic,” he alleged. Chavan criticised the CM over handling of the Maratha protests. He demanded that the government announce a definite plan of action to grant reservations to the community in education and jobs. “There is restlessness among the Marathas because the promises made to them remained unfulfilled. Besides, the community is being maligned by through statements that there were plans to release snakes in Pandharpur on Ashadhi Ekadashi,” Chavan said.
Chavan said he suspected a plan to pit the Maratha community versus rest of the society.
“If there were indeed any intelligence inputs about the anti-social elements trying to create disturbances on ‘Ekadashi’ day, we have still not seen any action against anybody,” the former chief minister said.
Chavan rejected Fadnavis’ charge that certain political leaders were fanning the caste tensions. “Fadnavis should name these leaders and take action against them. The Congress supports the demands of the Marathas, but we are against violence and damage to public property. We believe in a peaceful agitation,” he said.
Responding to a query whether Fadnavis was being targetted because he does not belong to Maratha caste, Chavan said, “Whether the CM is a Maratha or not is not the question.
We have had Muslim and dalit chief ministers in the past. The issue is about decisiveness”.
Meanwhile, Mumbai unit Congress president Sanjay Nirupam slammed Fadnavis over the “rising discontent” in the Maratha community, which he said was a “key reason” behind the Mumbai bandh taking a violent turn. “It is a high time that the CM understood seriousness of this issue instead of running away from his responsibilities,” he alleged.
Nirupam said it was “shameful” that Fadnavis decided to cancel his visit to the Vitthal-Rukmini temple in Pandharpur on the occasion of ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’. “Despite being Home Minister of the state, Fadnavis feels unsafe in the state only because of the incompetence and failure of his own government,” he added.