Voices Monday, June 16, 2014 - 05:30
Vinita Deskhmukh  It’s common in Maharashtra to change your caste to accommodate your political ambitions. In case the political constituency is in the reserved category but you belong to a higher clan of Maratha, (which is not under reserved category), just change your caste to Maratha Kunbi (classified OBC) by procuring a caste certificate. The district collector’s office obligingly gives it to you.  With 20% reservations for all castes of Marathas set to be a probability post June 20th, front door entry will also become valid and Maharashtra will literally become the seat of Maratha power. The case for Maratha reservation which has been hanging fire since the 1980s is a tricky one, as Marathas already dominate politics with the state assembly having around two-thirds of them as elected netas. Also, Marathas account for around 40% of the population in Maharashtra and if they come under reserved category, then all put together reservations in jobs and educational institutions would be a whopping over 70%. In fact, the Maratha reservation has caused heart-burn amongst the Maratha Kunbi community (lower category of Marathas) as it sees encroachment in its OBC quota, so now Marathas are clamouring for a separate reservation category.  The call for reservations has been so loud that now leaders of Maratha Aarashan Mahamorcha which is an umbrella of 23 organisations, clamouring for reservations, are openly threatening that they will not vote for the Congress-NCP alliance in the impending Assembly elections if they do not have their way.  One of the prominent leaders, Vinayak Mete, has already quit over delay in implementations of reservations and has joined the saffron alliance. This goes to show that BJP-SS is also willing to play this caste card, threatening to emotionally and psychologically destroy social interaction and relationships within communities. There is a jealousy factor too. With Maratha Kunbis under OBC reservation, many of them have been successful as professionals, entrepreneurs and as bureaucrats. The upper-class Marathas like the 96 Kulis could not bear the upper edge of the lower class and so now want a heavy pie of concessions for themselves to prove their strength, say some sociologists.. A well known Maratha social activist who requested anonymity states that, ``Time has come for economically weaker sections to get reservations and not the Marathas who are economically progressive and hold heavy political clout in the state. Time and again some community or the other is asking for reservations and vote bank politics is dictating its merit at the cost of other citizens who have the right to be educated and be employed. Now, if Marathas get 20% reservations, it means that they will continue their backdoor entry; legitimately enter through Maratha reservation and also apply for open category. This is going to create severe caste-wise heart burn and division in the society.’’ Another leading journalist, who belongs to a tribal community rues, ``If people already enjoying massive political clout are going to get reservations, there is no room left for deserving people. What do I plan for my children except for earning more and more money so that they do not lose out on educational opportunities elsewhere? At this rate, Sri Lanka would be a better choice to live.’’ As per a recent news report in DNA, `` Reservations already exist among OBCs for a section of Marathas, known as Kunbis. Maratha Kunbis, who are largely agriculturists, constitute 31.5% of the population. They have a large presence in Vidarbha and Konkan. Today, a total of 356 backward castes get 19 percent reservations, 51 Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes get 11 percent and 11 other castes in the special backward category get 2 percent.’’  Maharashtra has crossed the limits of reservations set by the Supreme Court but the ones mooting for it, hope, that, like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, their limit would also be extended. The joke is that Narayan Rane, the rebel Shiv Sena leader who joined Congress and holds sway over the Konkan region heads the Committee, to take a call on Maratha reservations, has himself been campaigning reservations for Marathas. So how can the Rane committee under him conduct an Independent Inquiry, ask experts.  Earlier, the commission for Maratha reservation was headed by three former judges. Thereafter a high-powered committee was set up under Rane, after the report was submitted to the state government and leaders of several backward classes wanted to have their say. The decision which could not be taken by earlier Chief Ministers continues to be a vexed one. This time round, the drubbing taken by the Congress-NCP in the Lok Sabha elections has reflected the mood of people for governance and not for caste. So, it would be a Catch 22 crisis for the state government to sanction 20% reservation for Marathas, as while they would look at appeasement to them, there would be a backlash from those in the General Category as also from OBCs as they see Marathas as threats to their opportunities in jobs and education. Says the social activist, ``voters will not forgive them if they sanction the Maratha reservation.’’ Patils and Deshmukhs are in the top bracket of the Maratha community. So, even I guess, filmstar Amit Deshmukh, son of late Vilasrao Deshmukh would come under this privileged category and so would sugar and educational barons of the state, who are mostly Marathas and thrive in prosperity. That leaves the 5 percent-odd Brahmin community which is very vocal and pro-active in democratic and electoral politics. Looks like it will be draggers drawn by every other community against the mighty Marathas. Vinita Deshmukh is a journalist, writer, RTI columnist and activist. The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.