"We will make an announcement after June 20," Industry Minister Narayan Rane, who heads the state government's special committee to study the socio-economic conditions of the Maratha community, informed the Legislative Council today.
The minister was replying to a discussion on the issue in the Upper House. BJP MLC Ashish Shelar said the government should not wait further and make an announcement in the ongoing Legislature session itself.
June 20 is the date when the code of conduct for Legislative Council polls, in force in many parts of the state, ends. The impending announcement of a quota for Marathas is drawing criticism from other backward castes (OBCs), who believe that the dominant community would take away the reservations for the weaker sections.
However, Maratha leaders insist that a majority of the community's members are socially and economically backward, so they require affirmative action in jobs and education and not politics.
The proposed reservation is clearly a 'populist' move ahead of the polls.
Reservations already exist among OBCs for a section of Marathas, known as Kunbis. Maratha Kunbis, who are largely agriculturists, constituted 31.5 per cent of the population. They have a large presence in Vidarbha and Konkan.
Today, a total 356 backward castes get 19 per cent reservations, 51 scheduled castes and tribes get 11 per cent and 11 other castes in the special backward category get 2 per cent.
Some leaders of Maratha community are demanding a decision on the contentious issue before the assembly elections, due in four months. They have warned of going against the Congress-NCP alliance in the assembly elections if reservation for Marathas in state government jobs and educational institutions is not approved.
Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji who is leading Maratha Aarakshan Mahamorcha (MAM), an umbrella group of 23 organisations demanding reservation, has issued an ultimatum to the state government.
"Maratha communities had not taken any stand to support or oppose the NCP-Congress in Lok Sabha elections. If the Maratha quota is not announced, we will take an anti-government stand in assembly polls," he said.
Some prominent Maratha leaders like Vinayak Mete have already deserted NCP and joined the opposition Mahayuti alliance, which has assured it would consider demands of the Maratha community.
The Rane panel had submitted its report on February 26 this year and recommended 20 per cent reservations for Marathas in state government jobs and educational institutions.
The committee said reservations should be given without encroaching upon reservation for OBCs and others.