Home International Maratha reservation in Maharashtra: Why are OBC leaders protesting?

Maratha reservation in Maharashtra: Why are OBC leaders protesting?


Now, in a move to oppose any move to induct Kunbi-Marathas into the OBC fold, an ‘OBC Bhatke Vimukt Jaat Aarakshan Bachao Yalgaar Sabha’ (rally for saving the reservation of OBCs and Nomadic Tribes) was held at Ambad in the Jalna district of Maharashtra on Friday, November 17.

Top leaders from different political parties had joined the rally in a rare viewof solidarity. Maharashtra minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Chhagan Bhujbal and several other prominent OBC leaders including Congress leaders Vijay Wadettiwar, Rajesh Rathod, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLC Gopichand Padalkar, Prakash Shendge and Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) leader Mahadev Jankar had participated in the protest, news agency PTI reported.

In view of the protest by the OBC communities, the Maharashtra government is unlikely to opt for Maratha reservation within the OBC category based on Kunbi certificates across the state, the Indian Express reported on Monday.

Now, as the demonstration over the Maratha reservation gained momentum in Maharashtra, here’s a recap of all that happened in the state in connection with the row recently:

OBC leaders protest and their demand

Speaking at the rally, Bhujbal reiterated that the existing reservation for the OBCs should not be curtailed while giving reservation to the Marathas. “We do not oppose Maratha reservation, but there should be no encroachment on the OBC quota,” he said.

ALSO READ: Maratha reservation: Protests over quota intensify; CM calls all-party meet; internet suspended and more. 10 Points

Bhujbal also questioned how suddenly records showing Maratha families as belonging to the Kunbi caste, an OBC community, were being discovered. “Initially 5,000 records were found in Marathwada which was part of the Nizam’s Hyderabad state (before 1948). Later the number went up to 13,500….Even when there were elections in Telangana, the number went up,” he added.

Bhujbal further demanded an “immediate” caste census.

Bhujbal’s statement creating a rift?

Although several OBC leaders from different political parties joined the protest rally, a statement by Chhagan Bhujbal’s didn’t go down well with some of them.

According to an Indian Express report, Chhagan Bhujbal challenged the Marathas and asked those belonging to the OBC category to “reply to them in the same coin”. He was quoted as saying, “I have been getting messages that our banners are being torn. Are your hands tied? We will have to reply with the same coin.”

He was quoted as saying that granting reservations to the Marathas in the state would lead to a face-off between the Marathas on one side and OBCs, SCs, STs and Muslims on the other side.

Bhujbal also criticised Maratha activist Manoj Jarange’s appeal to people not to allow political leaders to enter their villages till the Marathas got reservation.

“There is democracy in the state. Do these people own the state? I appeal to the chief minister and deputy chief minister (Devendra Fadnavis who holds the home portfolio) that the boards saying no entry for leaders should be removed. Is there law and order or not?” he was quoted by PTI as saying.

Bhujbal, who was lauded by many for leading the protest rally, was also criticised by many for “fuelling tensions between the Marathas and OBCs”.

Vijay Wadettiwar, a Congress leader and Maharashtra Leader of the Opposition (LoP), said on Sunday there should not be any fight or rift between the OBC and the Maratha communities. Wadettiwar was among other OBC leaders shared the stage with Bhujbal during the rally.

ALSO READ: Protests over Maratha reservation shut down 46 Maharashtra bus depots, causing loss of over 13 cr

Wadettiwar reportedly said he does not support extremism. “No community should take an extremist side…” he was quoted as saying. Distancing himself from Bhujbal’s statement, he was quoted by the Hindu as saying, “We are of the opinion that OBCs should get right and that rights ought to be safeguarded.”

“At the same time, we do not any schims between the two communities. He (Jarange) has the right to express demands for the Maratha community,” Wadettiwar said.

Sambhaji Chhatrapati, a member of the erstwhile royal family of Kolhapur, also reacted sharply to Bhujbal’s statements.

Chhatrapati accused Bhujbal of trying to fuel tensions between the Marathas and OBCs. “Bhujbal should be sacked as a minister as he was taking a different stand from the state government,” the former Rajya Sabha member said. “The OBCs are not antagonistic towards the Maratha community and Bhujbal was trying to incite the two sides for his political interests,” he alleged.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole, who also belongs to the OBC category, said the central and state governments are not willing to address these issues related to reservations in government jobs and education.

Maharashtra govt’s stance on Maratha row

Maratha activist Jarange had launched a hunger strike last month to press the demand of reservation for the community. He demanded issuing Kunbi certificates to the entire Maratha community for reservations under the OBC category. he had earlier said the Maratha community would support the quota-related demands of Banjara and Dhangar communities.

Banjaras want to be in the Scheduled Tribes category. The Dhangar community too is demanding reservation (in ST category).

Following this, the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government decided to give Kunbi caste certificates to those Marathas who could produce records of the erstwhile Hyderabad state where their ancestors were described as belonging to Kunbi community so that they can avail of OBC quota.

Bhujbal’s jibe at own govt

Blaming the top leadership of his own government for taking the “anti-OBC decision”, Bhujbal had said earlier that “backdoor” attempts to grant the reservation to the Maratha community under the OBC category will be opposed.

He had sarcastically asked how so many ancestral records had become available all of a sudden (showing Maratha families as belonging to the Kunbi cast). “They are giving Marathas a backdoor entry to the OBC quota,” he was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying on November 6.

He had said when Maratha leaders realised that they wouldn’t get the reservation directly (outside the OBC quota), they attempted to obtain it through the back door (within the OBC category).

He alleged that “documents are being forged to show Kunbi origin”. “This should stop. You say the OBC quota won’t be touched. How? Once he gets a Kunbi certificate, he becomes an OBC,” he was quoted by the Print as saying.

OBCs’ opposition a worry for BJP?

Bhujbal reportedly warned the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of the wrath of the OBC community. The BJP has enjoyed the support of OBCs in various parts of the state.

“It is said that 60 per cent of OBCs vote for the BJP, but if tomorrow, the voters see that their reservation is going to be impacted then what will they do?” the NCP leader was quoted by the Times of India as saying.

Notably, the coalition of the BJP, Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and and Ajit Pawar-led NCP are in currently in power in Maharashtra. Bhujbal is the leader from Ajit Pawar’s faction of the NCP.

‘OBC people are with us’: Maratha activist

Activist Manoj Jarange said earlier this month, “The common OBC people are also with us, no matter what their (OBC) leaders say.”

He said the state government has not yet given a written time-bound programme to Jarange over resolution of the quota issue. “If they don’t give it, we also don’t need it. If they befool the Maratha community, we have the weapon of peace. Don’t let us take that out,” he added.

Earlier in November, Jarange had expressed satisfaction with the state government’s work of issuing certificates of the Kunbi caste to Marathas, according to a PTI report.

“Kunbi certificates are being distributed. But the government should pace up the process of giving the certificates. As the deadline of December 24 draws near, Marathas should remain united and alert,” the activist was quoted as saying.

Jarange had also alleged that OBC leaders were targeting Marathas by getting false offences registered against them and said Maratha leaders should stand with the youth of the community.

Chhagan Bhujbal floating his own party?

The rally led by OBC leader on November 17 reignited the buzz that Bhujbal could launch a political party of is own, the Times of India reported.

According to the India Express, former minister and Rashtriya Samaj Party (RSP) leader Mahadev Jankar called for all OBCs to come together and float a party of their own, instead of depending on leaders of other parties.

In 2021, the Supreme Court had struck down reservation granted to Marathas by the earlier BJP-Shiv Sena government. The court had deemed it unconstitutional as it breached the 50 per cent ceiling for reservations.

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Updated: 20 Nov 2023, 10:59 PM IST

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