Maratha Quota Row: Eknath Shinde-Led Govt Temporarily Defuses Tensions But Sparks Discontent Among OBCs

Maratha Quota Row: Eknath Shinde-Led Govt Temporarily Defuses Tensions But Sparks Discontent Among OBCs

And 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, 08:12 AM IST
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Maratha Quota Row: Eknath Shinde-Led Govt Temporarily Defuses Tensions But Sparks Discontent Among OBCs | X

The Eknath Shinde-led Maha Yuti government has, for now, managed to defuse a politically explosive situation by yielding to the demands of  Maratha activist Manoj Jarange Patil (40). But, in the process it has angered the Other Backward Castes (OBCs), who form the social basis of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is the main constituent of the ruling coalition.

"Notification only consists of 'draft rules'"

While the Nationalist Congress (Ajit Pawar) is dominated by the Marathas, the Shiv Sena (Shinde) has a fair mix of Marathas and OBCs. And 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. 

An important difference between the earlier decision of the government to directly give reservation to Marathas (which law was thrown out of the door by the Supreme Court) and Saturday's move is that this time around the Kunbis 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. 

Also, the government's 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? 

Maharashtra has witnessed unusual phenomenon

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 an until recent  non-entity like Jarange Patil 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 which 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 Shendge. 

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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