Both houses of legislature adjourned amid din after oppn boycotts all-party meet on Maratha quota

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Mumbai, Jul 10 (PTI) Both houses of Maharashtra legislature witnessed uproar on Wednesday over the opposition boycotting the all-party meeting convened earlier by the chief minister on the Maratha reservation issue, leading to adjournment of the legislative assembly and council for the day.

The all-party meeting convened on Tuesday evening was boycotted by Maha Vikas Aghadi members accusing the government of not taking them into confidence.

In the Lower House, presiding officer Sanjay Shirsat hurriedly conducted the day's business, including passing supplementary and budgetary demands, an appropriation bill, and a tax-related amendment bill, before adjourning the assembly for the day.

The issue was initially raised by BJP's Ameet Satam, who accused the opposition of politicising the reservation matter.

Satam challenged the opposition to clarify their stance on whether Marathas should be given reservations from the OBC quota, accusing them of attempting to create a rift between the communities.

Ashish Shelar (BJP) claimed that the opposition had withdrawn from the all-party meeting at the last moment. Treasury benches then stormed the well, condemning the opposition.

Leader of Opposition Vijay Wadettiwar of Congress alleged the government was fostering social divisions and only seeking the opposition's support when tensions escalated. He blamed the social unrest on the ruling Mahayuti government.

"Social tensions are the sin of the Mahayuti government," he said.

BJP MLA Sanjay Kute contended that previous all-party meetings on the quota issue were attended by the opposition, alleging that Congress and NCP leaders had opposed Maratha reservations.

"It is the BJP-led government which had provided quota to the Maratha community but the opposition is trying to scuttle it in the Supreme Court," Kute said.

Meanwhile, Shelar demanded that the opposition apologise to the Maratha community and OBCs and claimed the opposition has no intention to resolve the issue.

Amid the chaos and members of treasury benches trooping into the well, Speaker Rahul Narwekar adjourned the House multiple times.

After the House reassembled, BJP's Nitesh Rane demanded that the opposition clarify their position on the Maratha quota, while Shelar insinuated that the opposition's last-minute boycott was influenced by someone.

"Whose message or phone call was behind this (the boycott)," Shelar asked.

Rane said they (the opposition) should immediately clarify whether they want a separate quota for Marathas or from the OBC (grouping).

When Wadettiwar rose to speak, members of the treasury benches trooped into the well and shouted slogans.

Kute urged Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange to avoid opposition leaders, claiming they sought to incite community divisions for electoral gain.

He accused Wadettiwar of adopting different stands while speaking with media, OBC leaders, Maratha activists and in the legislature.

BJP's Ameet Satam called for a Special Investigation Team to probe an MLA from Marathwada for allegedly spreading divisive messages.

When the House reconvened, ministers Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Shambhuraj Desai criticised the opposition for not attending the all-party meeting.

Vikhe Patil suggested Jarange should not trust opposition leaders, noting a former Chief Minister's lack of support for the Maratha quota.

"Jarange should understand who are real enemies of the Maratha quota," he said.

Desai said the government intended to arrive at a consensus to resolve the quota issue but opposition leaders suddenly decided to boycott the meeting after agreeing to attend it.

"The opposition leaders who were not in Mumbai had agreed to join online but they backtracked," he added.

In the legislative council, proceedings were similarly disrupted after BJP's Pravin Darekar accused the opposition MVA of double standards for skipping the meeting.

Despite Deputy Chairperson Neelam Gorhe's appeals, the commotion forced an adjournment for the rest of the day.

"The opposition parties' double standards have been exposed in the House. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had invited political leaders to discuss the demand to include Marathas under the OBC category. However, the opposition parties refused to attend the meeting," Darekar said.

His remarks prompted members of the opposition to raise anti-government slogans, plunging the Upper House into chaos.

Despite several appeals from Deputy Chairperson Neelam Gorhe, both sides refused to budge, prompting her to adjourn the proceedings for the rest of the day.

The all-party meeting on the Maratha reservation issue was convened ahead of the assembly polls due in October and days before the expiry of the deadline set by Jarange for the state government to accept the community’s demands, including quota under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

Last month, OBC quota activists Laxman Hake and Navnath Waghmare went on a hunger strike demanding that the draft notification that gives Kunbi certificates to Marathas to avail quota benefits under the OBC category be scrapped. PTI MR ND GK NP NSK