Maharashtra: The Political OBC Of Maratha Agitation

Maharashtra: The Political OBC Of Maratha Agitation

With the Lok Sabha elections almost round the corner, the coalition partners, specially the BJP, will have a lot of answering to do.

S BalakrishnanUpdated: Sunday, January 28, 2024, 01:06 AM IST
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Mumbai: The Eknath Shinde-led Mayayuti government has, for now, managed to defuse a politically explosive situation by yielding to the demands of 40-year-old Maratha activist Manoj Jarange-Patil. However, in the process, it has angered the Other Backward Castes (OBCs), who form the social basis of the BJP, which is the main constituent of the ruling coalition.

While the NCP (Ajit Pawar’s faction) is dominated by the Marathas, the Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde’s faction) has a fair mix of Marathas and OBCs. With the Lok Sabha elections almost round the corner, the coalition partners, specially the BJP, will have a lot of answering to do.

Sources in the BJP said Saturday’s notification only consists of “draft rules” which are certain to be challenged and the litigation would continue for several months before which the Parliamentary polls would be held.

Row over Kunbi certificates

An important difference between the earlier decision of the government to directly give reservation to Marathas (which was thrown out by the Supreme Court) and Saturday’s move is that this time around the Kunbi Marathas are sought to be included in the OBC category and then the benefits of reservation would be conferred on them. This detour is exactly what is going to be challenged by OBC leaders.

Moreover, the decision to grant free education from KG to PG for Marathas has not been taken kindly by other castes. Senior minister Chhagan Bhujbal asked why this benefit is not being given to the OBCs, SCs and STs?

In any case, for the first time Maharashtra has witnessed a phenomenon in which an extremely ordinary and unheard of man managed to shake a lawfully-elected government with the sheer might of numbers. So much so that other Maratha leaders like Purshottam Khedekar, who have been campaigning for Maratha reservation for over 30 years, were simply stunned at the success of Jarange-Patil, who was until recently a non-entity, to mobilise lakhs of Marathas.

How did Jarange-Patil pull it off?

Sources in the political establishment and intelligence agencies said a senior Maratha leader, who was deeply upset with the BJP in general and with deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis in particular for pulling down the MVA government, had masterminded the entire strategy to mount a powerful political assault on the Shinde government.

The kind of massive resources that went into the long march of Jarange-Patil from Jalna to Navi Mumbai was obviously beyond the capacity of the Maratha activist. The whole protest was ‘event-managed’, according to OBC leader Prakash Shindig.

The BJP-led Central government checkmated the Maratha leader operating from behind the scenes by turning the heat of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on his close relative and threatening to arrest him. The senior leader got the message and got the Maratha protestors to back off. Be that as it may, a new political force in the form of Jarange-Patil, who has emerged outside of the political establishment, has been created in Maharashtra and it will play a crucial role in the coming elections.

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