Maharashtra: In Elgar Rally, OBC Leaders Cutting Across Party Lines Unite Against Maratha Reservation, Call For Caste Census Grows Louder

Bhuvan Krishna

Nov 20, 2023, 02:02 PM | Updated 02:01 PM IST

Maharashtra deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis and CM Eknath Shinde (@Dev_Fadnavis/Twitter)
Maharashtra deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis and CM Eknath Shinde (@Dev_Fadnavis/Twitter)

The Elgar rally against Maratha quota reservations, featuring remarks by Maharashtra Civil Supplies Minister and Other Backward Class (OBC) leader Chhagan Bhujbal, may have broader implications.

This OBC and Vimukt Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) rally aimed to unite all 374 OBC communities, with leaders from various parties, including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), calling for a caste census across the country.

As the BJP government faces opposition demands for a caste census, the rally and escalating Maratha reservation demands could disrupt the delicate truce established by the Maharashtra government.

Other speakers at the rally, including Congress leader Vijay Wadettiwar, emphasised the importance of advocating for OBC interests in national leadership.

Former minister and Rashtriya Samaj Party leader Mahadev Jankar even suggested the formation of a party for OBCs rather than relying on existing political leaders.

The plan now involves organising rallies in every district of the state. With Marathas adamant about their reservation demand and a looming deadline set by Manoj Jarange-Patil, the fear among OBCs is that including Marathas in the OBC category will reduce their share of reservation.

OBC leaders have stressed the need for a separate quota for Marathas too.

The BJP, traditionally enjoying OBC support, faces challenges as the community expresses discontent with the state government's assurances to provide Kunbi, and consequently OBC, certificates to Marathas.

The rally also poses concerns for the Congress, which seeks to maintain OBC support in the state.

Bhujbal's prominent role in opposing Maratha protesters has positioned him as a key OBC leader, earning praise from OBC leaders.

Bhujbal's call for OBCs to respond similarly if Marathas resort to violence could have a lasting impact on state politics, exposing divisions between communities. Bhujbal, attempting to emerge as the primary OBC leader, is also emphasising support from Dalits, Muslims, and tribals.

Despite demands for Bhujbal's expulsion from the Cabinet for his criticism of the government, the administration is limited in its actions due to potential legal challenges regarding Maratha quotas.

The Supreme Court had previously struck down Maratha reservations in 2021, deeming them unconstitutional for exceeding the 50 per cent reservation ceiling.

The Maratha agitation gains momentum with Jarange-Patil's hunger strike, rejecting the government's proposal for Kunbi certificates and drawing a counter-response from OBCs.

Bhuvan Krishna is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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