Marathas want inclusion in other backward classes category

December 23rd, 2008 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNagpur, Dec 23 (IANS) Cutting across party lines, Maratha legislators in Maharashtra Tuesday made common cause to demand inclusion of their community in the ‘other backward classes’ (OBC) category and extension of reservation facility in education and jobs.Several Maratha members of both houses of the state legislature, attending its winter session in this second capital of the state, held demonstrations at the Vidhan Bhavan premises in support of their demand.

Former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmikh, also a Maratha, told reporters that his government had assured the community of sympathetic consideration of the demand.

The demonstrations were led by Pandurang Phundkar of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Bhai Jagtap of the Congress.

Members of the all-party front are, however, facing opposition to their demand from within their respective parties.

The Nationalist Congress Party whose president Sharad Pawar, often dubbed ‘Maratha strongman’ by commentators, has lent tacit support to the demand.

Traditionally the most dominant community in the state since the era of the Maratha warrior king Shivaji or even before, Marathas, particularly in western Maharashtra, constitute majority among sugar barons and education czars.

The community has given Maharashtra nine chief ministers since its inception in May 1960, including the first head of the state late Y.B. Chavan to the latest incumbent Ashok Chavan. Four of them, namely late Shankarrao Chavan, late Vasantdada Patil, Sharad Pawar and Vilasrao Deshmukh have held the post twice.

Marathas have also constituted majority in most state cabinets and legislature houses.

Even as the Maratha leaders are raising the pitch of their demand with an eye on the forthcoming Lok Sabha and assembly elections in the state, the process of consolidation of OBC force, again across party lines, is also gaining momentum.

The consolidation has been marked by two heavyweight OBC leaders in the state politics - deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal of the NCP and BJP stalwart Gopinath Munde - sharing the same platform. This raised eyebrows and triggered speculation because both passed through turbulent phases in their respective parties.

The two leaders’ stand vis-à-vis the Maratha community’s demand for its inclusion in the OBC category is that it should be done without reducing OBC’s share in the overall quota, that is, by way of addition rather than accommodation.

Banjaras, another sizeable community in the state, are also hoping for inclusion in the OBC category, with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the centre having accepted the recommendations of the Renke Committee to that effect.

Expelled BJP MP Haribhau Rathod is spearheading the Banjara agitation on the issue with tacit support from Munde, activists say.

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