Maharashtra: Caste Cauldron Boils Over As OBC Leaders Rally Against Maratha Reservation

Maharashtra: Caste Cauldron Boils Over As OBC Leaders Rally Against Maratha Reservation

In his speech, Mr Bhujbal said he was not opposed to reservation for Marathas. But, they should not be accommodated in the OBC quota

S Balakrishnan Raja ManeUpdated: Saturday, November 18, 2023, 01:12 AM IST
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Chhagan Bhujbal (left) Jharange-Patil (right) |

Maharashtra appears to be sitting on a caste cauldron. On Friday, senior cabinet minister and leader of the NCP (Ajit Pawar) Chhagan Bhujbal warned that the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) will not be a silent spectators to the dilution of their quota of government jobs and education seats. He made it clear that the OBCs will oppose tooth and nail any move to give reservation to Marathas at their cost.

In an aggressive move, Mr Bhujbal, who is a nationally-known OBC leader as the head of the Samata Parishad, addressed a massive meeting of OBCs at Ambad in Jalna district, which is the home turf of Manoj Jharange-Patil, who has emerged as the face of the current agitation for Maratha reservation. Mr Bhujbal warned Mr Jharange-Patil not to step on his tail. Significantly, Vijay Wadettiwar, Congress leader of the opposition and Ganesh Padalkar, BJP MLC who is a strong critic of NCP leader Sharad Pawar, also addressed the gathering which was held under heavy police bandobast. Apparently, OBC leaders cutting across party lines are now forming a solid bloc to protect reservation for their castes. The decision of the state government to give OBC certificates to Kunbi Marathas has particularly irked the OBCs. 

Bhujbal’s speech provokes sharp reactions from Jharange-Patil

Mr Bhujbal's speech provoked sharp reactions from Mr Jharange-Patil and Mr Sambhaji Raje, prominent Maratha leader and former M.P. who was earlier sent to the Rajya Sabha on the recommendation of the BJP.  Mr Jharange-Patil said the Marathas will get reservation come what may and no one can stop that. Mr Raje demanded the immediate sacking of Mr Bhujbal for opposing reservation to Marathas.

In his speech, Mr Bhujbal said he was not opposed to reservation for Marathas. But, they should not be accommodated in the OBC quota. He said if reservation is given to Marathas through Constitutional means then no one would have any objection. He also accused Mr Jharange-Patil of inciting violence against the police and OBC leaders. He observed that supporters of Mr Jharnge-Patil had put up posters in several villagers opposing the entry of leaders who dont endorse their demand. He said this will not be tolerated and directed the police to pull down all such posters. Leaders of the OBCs like Prakash Shendge and others had earlier warned that members of their castes constituted over 50 % of the state's population and they would ensure the defeat of Maratha candidates in the upcoming elections.

With Mr Bhujbal adopting a militant posture, there is a veritable rift in the state cabinet with Maratha ministers opposing him. Activists of the OBCs are also likely to legally challenge any move by the government to carve out reservation for Kunbi Marathas from the OBC quota. Meanwhile, Mr Jharange-Patil is continuing with his tour of the state mobilising the Marathas in an obvious bid to put pressure on the Eknath Shinde government. 

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