Amid talk of a Patel-like agitation in the offing in Maharashtra, the state politics is abuzz with the growing response to the protest marches by the Maratha community, prompting the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and NCP chief Sharad Pawar to trade charges.
Fadnavis, in a veiled attack on Pawar, had told a Marathi TV channel that “Maratha leaders not in power any longer” were behind these morchas. He also attacked the NCP chief for a bid to gain “political mileage” from the protest.
“To claim that leaders who were not in power were behind the Maratha community’s massive protest is baseless,” Pawar said today.
“Maratha youth have taken to the street on their own, without any specific leader’s intervention,” he said.
“The morchas are indication of the growing dissent against the BJP-led government in Maharashtra,” Pawar said, adding the government should take decision on the demand of reservations for the Maratha community soon.
BJP Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar said Fadnavis had “opened doors of talks” with the community leaders, and Pawar should not meddle in this issue.
Rajya Sabha member Sambhaji Raje, a descendant of King Shivaji, said the Chief Minister should resolve the Maratha morcha issue by keeping the political leaders away from talks.
Meanwhile, a Maratha morcha held at Hingoli in Marathwada region today evoked good response.
What started as a protest over the brutal gangrape and murder of a minor girl in Ahmednagar district’s Kopardi village has metamorphosed into a platform to push for the long pending quota demand of the community.
The girl belonged to the Maratha community and the accused were dalits.
Some leaders of Maratha community are also raising demand for amendments to the SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
An interesting aspect of these morchas is that they are not led by any political leaders or a party.
Maratha community has been the dominant player in the Maharashtra politics since the state’s formation, and controls education institutes, sugar factories and the cooperative sector.
Lakhs attended the community’s ‘silent march’ in Ahmednagar and the numbers kept increasing in subsequent morchas in Aurangabad, Osmanabad, Jalgaon and Beed. A grand morcha has been planned in Mumbai.