Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today said that his government will come through on its promise to provide reservations in jobs and education to the Maratha community as early as next month. "You should get ready to celebrate on December 1. There is no need to agitate anymore," he assured, hours after the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission submitted a report on whether the Maratha community in the state is in need of reservation.
According to sources, the report claims that 25 per cent of the state's 32 per cent Maratha population fulfils the criteria for backwardness. The state government said it will take 15 days to study the report, after which it would be cleared in the winter session of the state assembly.
However, Maratha activists seemed unwilling to wait that long. "The government should accept the report immediately instead of testing our patience. We need it fast," Vinod Patil, a member of the community, told NDTV.
Thousands of protesters had hit the streets of Maharashtra under the aegis of the Maratha Kranti Morcha to seek reservations in jobs and education in early August, paralysing parts of the state. While Pune and Aurangabad witnessed violence, sit-in demonstrations took place in Mumbai and Thane.
Although Maharashtra already has 52 per cent reservation, Mr Fadnavis has ruled out accommodating Marathas in the existing category. Instead, it is likely to recommend an additional 16 per cent reservation for the community -- pushing the total figure to 68 per cent.
This, however, is far beyond the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court for states. Significantly, the coalition government of the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party had earmarked 16 per cent reservation for Marathas in 2014, only to have the High Court impose a stay on it. "We welcome this recommendation by the report because we had tried to grant the quota earlier. The government should now pass it without delay," former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan told NDTV.
The powerful Maratha community is an important vote bank for all political parties in the state, and the BJP cannot afford to antagonise it ahead of the Lok Sabha and state assembly polls next year. However, it remains to be seen how the Fadnavis government manages to fulfill the demand without stepping on the judiciary's toes.