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SC’s verdict quashing Maratha quota may have bigger political ramifications

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The Supreme Court quashing the Maharashtra government’s law on reservation to Marathas in admissions and government jobs is likely to have political ramifications as some Maratha outfits have threatened to step up their agitations. The issue might snowball into a bigger headache for the government as some Maratha leaders now want the community to be included in the OBC category –– a demand that several OBCs have actively opposed.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, while calling the SC decision “unfortunate” said in a press release: “With folded hands, I request the Prime Minister and the President to take an urgent decision.” Referring to earlier instances of the Centre’s decision to overturn the Shah Bano verdict as well as the current BJP government’s decision on the Abrogation of Article 370, he said: “The Centre had taken quick decisions and had made necessary amendments in the constitution. The same promptness should be shown regarding the issue of Maratha reservation.” He will be addressing the state on Wednesday evening.

The state government immediately went into a huddle after the judgement on Wednesday and in a hurriedly-called press conference, Congress minister Ashok Chavan, who heads the cabinet sub-committee on Maratha reservations, blamed the erstwhile BJP government for the present impasse.

“The 102
nd constitutional amendment meant that the state does not have any powers to make their own law. They have to ask the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) and the latter has the powers to recommend to the President on reservations. However, the then BJP government has misguided the state and the community by framing such a law. It is clear from today’s judgement that the state had no powers to frame this law. The BJP has to answer why they framed such a law when they knew it wouldn’t stand,” said Chavan.

Regarding the state’s handling of the case in the Supreme Court, Chavan and other ministers like Minority Affairs minister Nawab Malik, said the MVA had taken up the issue very seriously and had appointed the same lawyers that the erstwhile BJP government had appointed for the SC hearing.

Malik hinted that there could be a delay in giving reservations to Marathas as the state would have to send a recommendation for reservations to the Backward Class Commission which, if it okays, would then forward it to the President recommending reservation.

Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, under whose tenure the government had given the reservation to Marathas, said the state lost the case in the Supreme Court as they could not argue it well.

“Our government had clearly argued, which was upheld by the Bombay High Court that the state has powers to give reservation to the community. The MVA government could not strongly argue this point in the Supreme Court,” he said.

“The MVA ministers are lying when they claim that there is no Backward Class Commission, but the Centre has already formed one. The MVA ministers by blaming the Centre is trying to pin their failures on our neck which is wrong.”

Several Maratha outfits have threatened a violent agitation. “Till now, we were leading a peaceful agitation. However, we will now pick up sticks as the government only understands the language of sticks,” said Abbasaheb Patil, a Maratha community leader in Pune. Others demanded that the Marathas be included in the OBC quota.

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