A massive storm is now brewing in Maharashtra. In a blow to the Maratha community, the Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of the state law granting reservation to Marathas in education and jobs.
While the apex Court clarified that the status of those who have already availed of the benefits will not be reversed, the quota will not be applicable to jobs and admissions in educational institutions in the interim.
The Supreme Court's prima facie opinion clearly mentions that "the present Maharashtra government did not show any extraordinary situation for providing reservations to Marathas in excess of 50 per cent" and that "the state failed to make out a special case". Yet, the state’s former standing counsel, Nishant Katneshwarkar, went on to falsely accuse and wrongly claim that the decision went against the Maharashtra government because state Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni had not argued for the state even once in either the Bombay High Court or the Supreme Court.
What he fails to mention here is that it was in fact former Advocate General VA Thorat who appeared in the Maratha reservation case (and not Advocate General Kumbhakoni). This was because at that time, a large section of the Maratha community had insisted that their case be represented by a Maratha. The then Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis, had respected this demand by the Maratha community.
After the massive agitations across the state for the Maratha reservation law in 2018, the role played by the then BJP-Shiv Sena government led by Devendra Fadnavis had been highly constructive and resulted oriented.
Moreover, during his tenure as Maharashtra Chief Minister, after a persuasive representation, the Bombay High Court had upheld the legal validity of the SEBC (Socially and Educationally Backward Classes) Act in favour of the Fadnavis led Maharashtra government. At that time, then Chief Minister Fadnavis had thanked legal experts, including Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni and his office, for their efforts. Fadnavis had also informed the Maharashtra Assembly then that the High Court had not only upheld the quota, but also refused to stay the operation of its decision, paving way for the law's immediate implementation in Maharashtra. This was an enormous victory at the time.
After the Uddhav Thackeray led Maha Vikas Aghadi took over in Maharashtra, in July, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis had officially written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and warned him that state government officials were not extending adequate cooperation before the Supreme Court in the matter of Maratha reservation in government jobs and education. Referring to the hearing that took place on 27th July, 2020, Fadnavis had raised the issue that Maharashtra government counsel Mukul Rohatgi had complained of a lack of requisite co-operation from officials. Another point he highlighted was that the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission was non-existent since the Maha Vikas Aghadi government had assumed office, and therefore, serious attention must be paid to ensure that the voice of the Maratha community is heard.
The greatest fear of the Marathas turned out to be true when the Supreme Court put a stay on Maharashtra's reservation, and this was mainly due to the ill prepared follow up and lack of seriousness on the part of the Maharashtra government. Their lawyers remained absent, submissions were delayed and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government did not even include all parties in the discussion regarding the reservation.
After the Supreme Court stay on the Maratha reservation, Fadnavis has assured the Maratha community in very clear words that the BJP will continue to stand firmly with them and work towards their betterment.
As proud followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's traditions, not just in name, one can assure the MVA government that the BJP will never ever work against the best interests of the Marathas.
Priti Gandhi is the National in-charge of BJP Mahila Morcha’s social media. All views expressed in this article are the author's own.