Maharashtra govt seeks consensus on Maratha quota at all-party meet boycotted by MVA

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Mumbai, Jul 9 (PTI) The Maharashtra government on Tuesday pushed for evolving a consensus on reservation in jobs and education for Marathas at an all-party meeting here and asserted that while resolving the emotive issue, the existing quota of other communities will not be disturbed.

The all-party meeting on the Maratha reservation issue convened in the evening was boycotted by the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). It was convened ahead of the assembly polls due in October and days before the end of a deadline set by Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange for the state government to accept the community's demands, including quota under the OBC category.

A statement released by the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) late in the night quoted CM Eknath Shinde as saying that the issue of reservation for the Maratha community and OBCs can be resolved only through talks.

Shinde emphasised the state government was committed to ensure that the 10 per cent reservation given to the Maratha community under a separate category through a legislation earlier this year passes the test of law.

He assured that while offering reservation to the Maratha community, the quota of other communities will not be disturbed.

Shinde said an 11-member team has been sent to Hyderabad to check the gazettes of Nizam where Kunbi records of people in Marathwada can be found.

The Marathwada region of the present-day Maharashtra was under the Nizam's rule.

Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told reporters that Shinde heard the opinion of leaders of political parties at the meeting and promised an appropriate decision on the issue of Maratha reservation.

He said the contentious issue of giving Kunbi caste certificates to "sage soyare" (blood relatives) was also discussed in the meeting.

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.

Kunbi, an agrarian community, falls in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, and Jarange, spearheading the agitation over the reservation issue, has been demanding Kunbi certificates for all Marathas, making them eligible for reservation benefits in education and government jobs.

"Efforts are on to have a larger consensus on the issue. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that there is social harmony in the state and problems of all communities are addressed," Fadnavis said.

He said the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, headed by B R Ambedkar's grandson Prakash Ambedkar, suggested the government should seek opinion from all political parties about their stand on the quota issue in a written format.

Talking to reporters, Chief Minister Shinde said leaders of all parties had agreed to attend the meeting and slammed the MVA for staying away from it.

A similar meeting had taken place in November 2023.

Several opinions were put forth by different leaders and they will be discussed with the Advocate General, said the CM.

Shinde said the MVA's policy is to ensure that Maharashtra continues to remains on edge for their political benefits.

He alleged that efforts are being made to scrap the 10 per cent reservation given to the Maratha community and added the opposition stands exposed by skipping the meeting.

Fadnavis also slammed MVA leaders for not attending the all-party conclave and said their boycott was pre-planned.

The deputy CM, who also holds the home portfolio, alleged the opposition intentionally skipped the meeting so that Maharashtra continues to "burn" and they take political advantage of the situation.

"They (MVA leaders) don't have the time to speak on the issue of Maratha reservation but have time to discuss poll preparations (for July 12 legislative council polls). This shows no community is important to the opposition and what matters to it is elections and power," Fadnavis said.

Ambadas Danve, Leader of Opposition in the legislative council, told PTI that the Shiv Sena (UBT), NCP (SP) and the Congress skipped the meeting as the government did not share details with the opposition about discussions it held with representatives of OBC and Maratha communities.

Danve, a Shiv Sena (UBT) MLC, said the government should speak on the quota matter in the state legislature which is currently having its monsoon session.

Earlier in the day, Leader of Opposition in the assembly Vijay Wadettiwar of the Congress said the MVA will not attend the all-party meeting as the government did not take the opposition into confidence over the matter.

Speaking in the assembly, Wadettiwar said the people of the state need to know what discussions Chief Minister Shinde and Deputy CMs Ajit Pawar and Fadnavis have had so far on the quota issue.

"What have they discussed and what have they promised (to agitators). They should explain in the assembly. There is a stand off between two communities (OBC and Marathas) and the government should give justice to both. We are not going to the meeting. The government must make its stand clear in the legislature," the Congress MLA demanded.

While suspending his fast on June 13, activist Jarange had set a deadline of one month (till July 13) before the government to accept the Maratha community's demands.

He has been demanding implementation of the draft notification that recognises Kunbis as "sage soyare" of Marathas and also seeking a law to identify Kunbis as Marathas. PTI PR MR RSY

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