Marathas may contest Maharashtra polls if quota demand not met, says activist Manoj Jarange-Patil

Maratha activist Manoj Jarange-Patil on Sunday said that the community members might contest the Assembly elections in Maharashtra later this year if they are not granted reservations in government jobs and education by June 6, PTI reported.

“We are not involved in politics,” Jarange-Patil told reporters in Navi Mumbai. “We have not aligned with any party, neither the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi nor the ruling Mahayuti. We have not fielded any candidate and neither supported anyone.”

The Mahayuti comprises Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s faction of the Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party. The Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi comprises the Uddhav Thackeray-led group of the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led faction of the Nationalist Congress Party.

Jarange-Patil said that while he is not contesting the Lok Sabha elections, the Maratha community “knows who will win and lose”.

The quota activist criticised the state government, accusing it of betraying the Maratha community by postponing crucial decisions on the matter of granting it reservations for seven months, according to PTI.

“They [political parties] have cheated the Maratha community for 40 years,” he said. “We are prepared to contest the Assembly elections wholeheartedly”.

He added: “If they do not give [reservations] till June 6, we will prepare for the Assembly elections cent percent. Maratha Samaj will do this. I may also start a fast on June 5.”

Polling in Maharashtra will take place in five phases between April 19 and May 20. The votes will be counted on June 4. The Assembly elections in the state are expected to take place in October.

On Sunday, Jarange-Patil appealed to the members of the Maratha community to unite and “vote with conviction” in large numbers in the general election. “Defeat them with such force that they fear the Maratha vote,” PTI quoted him as saying. “Defeating the candidates is a victory in itself.”

He did not mention whether he was referring to the candidates of the ruling alliance or the Opposition bloc.

Also read: Why caste divides Marathas as they rally for reservation

The Maratha community’s long-standing demand for reservations in education and government jobs resurfaced last year with protests and hunger strikes by Jarange-Patil. The agitation has witnessed violence, suicides and the resignation of legislators.

On February 20, Maharashtra’s legislature passed a bill that provides for a 10% quota in education and government jobs for the Maratha community.

The quota will be in addition to the current 52% reservation in the state, which already includes a 10% quota for the economically weaker sections category.

This is similar to the 16% reservation for Marathas under the socially and educationally backward category that was introduced by the state’s previous BJP-Shiv Sena government in 2018.

This move was blocked by the Supreme Court in 2021 citing the 50% cap on total reservations it had set in 1992. The court said that there were no “exceptional circumstances” or an “extraordinary situation” in Maharashtra for the state government to breach the limit.

However, Jarange-Patil has insisted that the Marathas be given reservation only under the Other Backward Classes category because the separate reservation exceeded the constitutional ceiling of 50% and would be struck down by the judiciary.

Among Jarange-Patil’s demands are Kunbi caste certificates for all Marathas in addition to free education for the community from kindergarten to postgraduate levels and reservation of seats for Marathas in government jobs.

The Kunbis are a sub-caste within the Maratha community who are already classified as Other Backward Classes.

Also read: Could an OBC backlash to the Maratha quota hurt the BJP?

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