Adding to worries of both ruling and opposition alliances in Maharashtra, several pressure groups of the politically dominant Maratha community plan to take the electoral plunge in the upcoming assembly elections, top leaders said in Mumbai on Tuesday.
The Maratha Kranti Thok Morcha (MKTM), which spear-headed the cause of the community's demands for the past over four years, announced that it will contest all the 288 constituencies in the state.
The community comprises around one-third of the state's 11.5 crore population and could a pose a significant challenge to both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena and the Opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliances which consider Marathas as the backbone of their parties.
"We will contest the elections and try to field candidates for all the constituencies across the state. We will go independently and don't have plans to enter into any alliances with other parties or groups," MKTM leader Abasaheb Patil told media persons.
He said that though the state government has given reservations of 12 per cent in education and 13 per cent in jobs by creating a new category of Socially and Economically Backward Class, the Marathas were upset over implementation of the measure.
"It's still hanging.. it can still be challenged in the courts. We don't like the way it has been implemented," said another leader Ramesh Kere-Patil.
Patil added that the need for contesting the elections is even more necessary now as existing legislators from the Maratha community spread across different parties "do not voice issues concerning the community" with the government or in the legislature as was expected of them.
Kere-Patil said other issues of concern for the community include the pending loan waivers of many farmers, the crop insurance issue, the promised memorial and grand statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj which has yet to take off, punishment to the guilty in the Kopardi rape-murder case, among others.
Besides, during the long Maratha agitation across the state, 42 persons were killed but they have not received any compensation and thousands of cases were registered against the community members which have yet to dropped as assured, they said.