With Maratha leader Manoj Jarange-Patil launching yet another stint of his hunger agitation in his home town on Saturday over the demand of reservation, the confusion among the Maratha agitators all over Maharashtra has come to the fore, about what exactly was announced by the state government in Navi Mumbai some days ago that led to the activist withdrawing his previous agitation and announcing victory!
Celebrations were held in various districts as the state government brought out a notification that indicated that all the demands made by Jarange-Patil and his community were met and the state government was moving towards providing reservation in education and jobs to all the Marathas in the state. However, now there is confusion over what exactly the notification meant and securing reservation for the community remains a distant dream.
It has turned out that the notification called for suggestions and objections on the proposal to provide reservation to Marathas with Kunbi caste certification by February 16. If the government had issued an ordinance it would have meant reservation would be instantly possible and it would be a new law bound to get approval in the next Maharashtra assembly session. But a notification merely shows the governments intent and a long process would have to be followed.
The Marathas now realise that Jarange-Patil's agitation was perhaps withdrawn in a hurry without understanding the actual implications of the state government's act of bringing out a notification. It also seems that the agitators may not be able to take out another rally immediately after withdrawing a huge one a couple of weeks ago. There is now a feeling among the activist's supporters that he was misled.
The actual bone of contention is about including blood relations and in-laws in the eligibility list of reservation. Jarange-Patil has been demanding that any Maratha who gets Kunbi caste certification should be able to pass on the benefits of reservation to not just all blood relations but also to those who become relatives through marriage; in other words all the inlaws should also be eligible for reservation.
Maharashtra cabinet minister and leader of the OBC community Chhagan Bhujbal has taken strong objection to this condition. Obviously this will be challenged in the court by representatives of the OBC community.
While all these developments on the Maratha reservation agitation are underway, the buzz in the political circles is that the Election Commission may be announcing the schedule for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls anytime early March.
The political impact of Jarange-Patil's agitation may depend on how long and sustained his hunger strike is. Another factor, of course, is the media attention, which is now focused on the shoot-outs in the state.