As he headed towards Mumbai with thousands of supporters from Lonavala on Thursday afternoon, activist Manoj Jarange appealed to Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his deputies to come together and resolve the issue of Maratha quota.
Jarange said two official delegations met him earlier in the day, but they had nothing new to offer. They were deliberating on the "same old points", he said.
The activist, who set out on a march towards Mumbai from Jalna district on January 20 with thousands of supporters, is demanding that the state government grant quota to Marathas under the OBC grouping in jobs and education.
Jarange said he has been informed that a larger delegation would be coming to meet him. If that happens, the activist said, they will meet the delegation midway.
"We have not come here for fun. On behalf of the Maratha community, I appeal to CM Ekanth Shinde and deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar to come together for discussion and find a solution to the issue," he said.
Asked if they have been granted permission by the Mumbai police to agitate at Azad Maidan in the city, Jarange said a stage is being erected there.
Earlier, addressing his supporters at Lonavala, Jarange asked them to keep calm and not get provoked, insisting that theirs is a peaceful protest.
He said two teams of officials, including one led by Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar Divisional Commissioner Madhukar Ardad, met him earlier, but they had no new proposal.
Indefinite hunger strike in Mumbai from January 26
Jarange has announced the launch of an indefinite hunger strike in Mumbai from January 26 if the state government fails to grant the reservation to Marathas in government jobs and education.
He claimed on Wednesday that 54 lakh records have been found in Maharashtra so far identifying members of the Maratha community as Kunbi (OBC sub-caste) and demanded immediate issuance of caste certificates.
Kunbis enjoy reservation in government jobs and admissions to educational institutes under the OBC category.
CM Shinde on Wednesday had appealed to members of the Maratha community not to stage protests saying the government was thinking positively about their quota demand.
Speaking about an ongoing survey by the state Commission for Backward Classes to assess the social, economic and educational backwardness of the Maratha community, Shinde said 1.5 lakh people were working in three shifts.
The CM had last month said that a special session of the state legislature would be held in February 2024, if necessary, to provide reservation to the Maratha community.