Maha OBC minister Bhujbal declares protest against Maratha quota decision
Announcement follows Maratha quota activist Jarange Patil calling off an indefinite fast after the government accepted his demands
Maharashtra minister and senior OBC (other backward classes) leader Chhagan Bhujbal on Sunday said protests will be held outside the residences of MLAs, MPs and tehsildars (collectors) on 1 February against the state government's decision regarding the Maratha quota agitation.
Bhujbal held a meeting at his official residence in Mumbai, attended by OBC legislators, leaders, and others. He said a resolution was passed at this meeting for the cancellation of the draft published by chief minister Eknath Shinde on 26 January, in which the demands of Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange Patil were accepted.
"We will gather outside the residences of MLAs, MPs and tehsildars to protest the current decision of the state government that is taking illegal ways to offer reservation benefits to the Maratha community. We will also hold an Elgar rally from Marathwada to unite OBCs against such decisions," Bhujbal told reporters.
The announcement comes a day after Patil called off his indefinite fast for the Maratha quota after the government accepted his demands, with CM Shinde announcing that until Marathas get reservations, they will be given all the benefits enjoyed by OBCs.
A draft notification was issued by the government recognising all blood relatives of Maratha community members as Kunbis, whose Kunbi caste records have been found, making them eligible to claim the Kunbi (OBC) certificate.
"Steps are taken to fool the OBCs in the state. When a clear definition of relatives is stated in the law, why have changes been made illegally? The induction of Marathas into the OBC category will push the existing backward classes out and they will be deprived of reservation benefits," Bhujbal said.
Notably, Bhujbal, who belongs to the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) faction led by Ajit Pawar which joined the government in July 2023, has been criticising the Shinde-led dispensation over its handling of the Maratha quota issue.
"The meeting held today passed a resolution to cancel the draft published by the chief minister on 26 January. The second demand is to discontinue the Justice (retd) Sandeep Shinde committee (looking into Kunbi records of Marathas) because it is an unconstitutional body," Bhujbal added.
He alleged that Sunil Shukre, who heads the Maharashtra State Commission for Backward Classes (MSCBC), is active in the Maratha reservation movement. "This is a conflict of interest as the head of such a commission should not have any soft corner (for Marathas)," Bhujbal added.
He claimed Shukre was already inclined toward granting reservations to the Maratha community, which is against the principles of the post he is holding. "The state government has appointed (Sunil) Shukre as the chairman of the MSCBC. The Indra Sawhney vs Union government case shows the heads of such backward commissions are supposed to be impartial. But Shukre met Jarange, who is demanding reservations for Marathas.
"Shukre is also a member of another committee helping the state in the curative petition (filed in the Supreme Court against its decision to scrap the Maratha quota)," he said.
Bhujbal said the heads of the MSCBC used to be impartial in the past. "But now, previous members have gone out for various reasons and it has become a Maratha commission," he alleged.
Bhujbal also alleged that several GRs (government resolutions) were issued only to meet the demands of Marathas. "We (OBCs) were told that reservations for OBCs would not be touched, but the state (government) is now trying to give a backdoor entry to Marathas by issuing Kunbi caste certificates to them. This move will snatch the reservation benefits from more than 300 OBC castes and it will be taken by Marathas only," he said.
BJP MLCs Ram Shinde and Gopichand Padalkar were also present at the meeting and extended their support to Bhujbal's demands and resolutions.