Amid intensifying Maratha-Other Backward Classes (OBC) tensions against the backdrop of the Maratha quota stir, Maharashtra Minister and prominent other OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal on Sunday demanded the government scrap the Justice Shinde Committee set-up to expedite the process of granting reservation to Marathas, while remarking that the Maratha community could not ride roughshod over the OBCs.
Addressing a packed rally of OBC and Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) communities at Hingoli district, Mr. Bhujbal, spearheading his community’s attack against Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil, demanded the Maharashtra government conduct a comprehensive caste-based survey along the lines of Bihar before including the Marathas under the OBC Kunbi category as demanded by Mr. Jarange-Patil.
“The State government should scrap the Justice Sandeep Shinde Committee as it has no constitutional basis given that the Supreme Court [in May 2021] has already struck down the Maratha quota law,” Mr. Bhujbal, the Food and Civil Supplies Minister and a senior member of the Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) faction, said.
Mr. Bhujbal said Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s government, of which he himself is a part, should put an immediate stay on issuing OBC Kunbi certificates to Marathas.
“What is this going on? On the first day, it is said that 5,000 proofs showing Marathas to have been Kunbi OBCs are found. The next day, this number rises to 11,500 and the day after, to 13,000 and now that figure has gone in lakhs. Give a stay to these OBC certificates immediately and stop bowing to Jarange-Patil’s pressure tactics,” Mr. Bhujbal said.
The NCP leader observed that leaders across the spectrum — be it Sharad Pawar, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi or BJP State chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule — had all demanded a caste-based survey for reservation.
“You cannot just give a blanket reservation to the Marathas by inducting them in the OBC Kunbi category. The government must conduct a comprehensive survey of all castes. Only after a comparative caste study is carried out can it be decided who is backward and who is not. The Mandal Commission had already given the OBC percentage at 54[%] while the Bihar caste survey showed the OBCs at 63%. If Bihar can do this survey, then why not Maharashtra?” Mr. Bhujbal said.
Stating that he personally had been tolerating Mr. Jarange Patil’s “abuses” and “insults” for two months, the NCP leader warned him to not bulldoze OBC rights at the cost of a quota for Marathas.
He attacked Mr. Jarange-Patil for banning political leaders from entering villages, stating this was in violation of the Constitution.
“The Constitution provides us with freedom of movement and expression. It also provides a one-month simple jail term if anyone wrongly restrains any person. Here, he (Mr. Jarange-Patil) urges people to ban politicians from entering villages. Will the government and the police uphold the Constitution by restraining this man or not?” Mr. Bhujbal said.
He stressed that while the OBCs had no problem with Maratha reservation, the latter should not be eating out of the OBC pie and instead be given a separate reservation.
“We are not opposed to a Maratha quota. But they should not be included in the OBC category. You [Marathas] are already in power in the State [in a possible allusion to Mr. Shinde] and should demand your reservation from the Centre [a possible reference to Mr. Shinde’s alliance with the BJP],” Mr. Bhujbal said.
The Hingoli rally, which saw several OBC community leaders rally behind Mr. Bhujbal, is the second major OBC conclave held to counter Mr. Jarange-Patil’s “deadline” of December 24 given to the Maharashtra government, by which time it is supposed to grant Kunbi OBC certificates to all Marathas in the State.