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Maharashtra govt bows to Maratha pressure, forms committees to discuss demands

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

There is high political tension in Maharashtra. The Maratha community's huge silent rallies across the state have finally put enough pressure on the state government for it to form special committees to meet the organisers of the rallies at district level.

The organisers, among other grievances, had been complaining that the government was not even ready to discuss the issues raised by the rallies. But the new committees will discuss their' demands and find out a golden mean to end the deadlock prevailing for over a couple of months now.

The proposed district-level committees will consist of one MLA and two representatives from other parties in the respective districts.

Political machinations

Though the government has taken a step towards easing the tension brought about by the rallies, the Opposition is in no mood to let things go.

Opposition parties are trying to keep the matter burning till the local body elections in the near future. Ten municipal corporations, including the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and around 28 zila parishads and municipal councils are to go to the polls around February-March next year.

"There are reports that the Opposition is trying to extend the issue so that they get traction in the forthcoming elections. If they are really doing so, it would be the biggest example of how political decisions should not be taken. The organisers of the rallies have systematically kept all the established Maratha leaders at a bay. Only leaders like Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar, Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan can hope to get mileage from the rallies. But they are not even able to even get close to them. I don't think this ploy would help the Opposition in any way," said a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, who did not wish to be named.

The leader said that very soon, the rallies will head to cities such as Baramati, Sangli, Islampur, Nanded and Latur, which are strongholds of these Maratha leaders. And that's when these leaders, including Sharad Pawar, will have to face the most critical question: why is the Maratha community educationally and economically backward, despite these leaders being in power for decades together?

He added the rallies are definitely not against the present government, led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. "The rallies are a way for the Maratha community to give vent to the anger over the Kopardi gang rape and murder issue, and the grievance of being neglected by Maratha leaders over the years."

Veiled threats

Mansingh Pawar, one of the core committee members who organised the first rally at Aurangabad, said: "We have nothing to do with who is the Chief Minister or which party is in power. We are only concerned about our demands. It is a fact that all the established Maratha leaders have neglected us, and we will take a suitable decision about them in near future."

Bhayya Patil, volunteer and convener of the movement's social media team, said: "No politician should think that he can hijack our movement for his political benefit. We are fed up of politics over our demands. If any political leader tries to do that, we will show him his place."

Fadnavis's cryptic statement

Meanwhile, a statement by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, expressing uncertainty over continuing on the post, has sparked heated political debates in Maharashtra.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has claimed that there are some leaders within the BJP who are trying to displace Fadnavis, since he is Brahmin.

"We are being held responsible for the so-called turbulence in the government over the statement by CM Fadnavis. I want to make it clear that neither our party nor the agitating Maratha community has demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister. It is the internal tussle of the BJP which is behind the suggestive statement," said Nawab Malik, spokesperson, NCP.

However, senior BJP leader and PWD minister Chandrakant Patil has denied the speculation. "There is no such demand from anyone, including from within the party. Devendra Fadnavis will continue as CM till the term of this government."

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 27 September 2016, 6:42 IST
Ashwin Aghor @CatchNews

Journalist based in Mumbai.