Special Report

Maratha quota is vote bank politics

Maratha quota is vote bank politics

The unanimous passage in both Houses of the Maharashtra Legislature of the Bill providing for 16 per cent reservation to Marathas in Government jobs and educational institutions is a reminder that vote bank politics today permeates the entire body politic in the country. With the passage of the bill, the total reservations in the State would rise to 68 per cent, way beyond the ceiling of 50 per cent laid down by the Supreme Court in a nine-judge ruling in a 1992 case.

Barring Tamil Nadu where the ceiling was circumvented by the Centre putting specific reservations there under the Ninth Schedule which is non-justiciable, the ceiling has been zealously guarded by the judiciary in all instances of attempts to pass it over. This time it was the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC) headed by a retired judge, Justice (retired) N G Gaikwad that suggested a way to get over the ceiling by carving out a new, independent category called Socially and Educationally Backward Class under which the Marathas were classified. It now remains to be seen whether this passes muster.

The Marathas who constitute 31 per cent of Maharashtra’s population have been identified as upper castes for the last seven decades. Now, under the proposed law, they are sought to be identified as backward. The final hurdle would be conferment of status as a backward class by both Houses of Parliament after which the Bill will go for presidential assent. The Justice Gaikwad commission report favouring separate quota for the Marathas followed three previous rejections by different bodies.

The Mandal Commission report placed Marathas in the category of Forward Hindu Castes and Communities. The National Commission for Backward Classes Report in 2000 rejected Marathas claim of being backward. Again in 2008, the MSBCC “categorically rejected the demand for inclusion of Marathas as OBCs for benefits of reservation policy.” Indeed, Maharashtra is not alone in this attempt of forward castes to be included in the backward category. I

n Rajasthan and Haryana, the Jats, another forward caste is agitating for reservations and has got some assurances while in Gujarat the whole edifice of Hardik Patel’s campaign against the State government is on reservation for Patidars or Patels. The Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra has taken the populist route which will be tested in court.



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