Mumbai: Except for appealing to Manoj Jarange-Patil to call off his long march to Mumbai and promising him that a resolution favouring Maratha quota will be passed a special session of the state legislature, the Eknath Shinde government appears to be rather clueless as to how to handle lakhs of protestors, who are determined to enter the state's capital.
The number of his supporters has swelled to one million and more Marathas are joining his cavalcade by the hour.
Jarange-Patil and followers to enter Mumbai on Republic Day
Jarange-Patil and his supporters are scheduled to enter Navi Mumbai today for an overnight stay. Subsequently, they will enter Mumbai on the Republic Day. At Navi Mumbai, the marchers will be accommodated at the APMC market. The Bombay High Court has politely declined to issue any order to stop the march. However, it said that Jarange-Patil should be informed that Azad Maidan can accommodate only 5,000 people. It also reminded the government about the Supreme Court order in the Shaheen Bagh case. The apex court had ruled that public roads cannot be occupied by protestors. Currently, it seems Jarange-Patil is in no mood to stop the march specially having tasted a huge success all along the 400 km route from Jalna to Lonavala, so far.
Jarange-Patil's march picks up pace
Thousands of vehicles form a part of his march. At Khalapur in Raigad district, arrangements are being made to feed 10 lakh people. Cadres of the opposition parties are extending help in terms of men and money to the march. MLA Bachu Kadu is maintaining a line of communication between Shinde and Jarange-Patil. Fearing a blockade of city roads, the traffic police has banned the movement of heavy vehicles from 7am to noon. No government in the state has faced such a situation as the Shinde ministry is currently confronted with. The use of force as an option to stop the march has been ruled out since it is certain to result in a major law and order problem. The cabinet is divided wide open with Maratha ministers like Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil backing Jarange-Patil's demand and OBC ministers like Chhagan Bhujbal opposing it. The lack of unity in the cabinet is complicating Shinde's task further.
One of the proposals being considered is that Shinde should drive down to Navi Mumbai and persuade Jarange-Patil to call off the march by giving a written assurance of reservation for Marathas by convening a special session of the legislature. Incidentally, the entire cabinet is preparing to fly down to Ayodhya on February 5 to have darshan of Ram Lalla.