The poor turnout for the silent Maratha morcha in Nagpur on Wednesday failed to meet the expectations of its organisers.
While the previous marches generated massive responses with participants running in lakhs, the first march after demonetisation drew around only 15,000 people that according to organiser Sakal Maratha Samaj's claims should have drawn 2.5 million, according to a report by Livemint.
Marathas are politically and numerically the strong community in the state, whose votes can swing the political fortunes of parties. The decision of the previous Congress-NCP government to provide 16 percent quota in government jobs and education to Marathas was put on hold by the Bombay High Court. The blame-game is on between the ruling and Opposition parties over the responsibility of the same.
Earlier touted as a historic march for having MLAs and MLCs from all parties united to participate and at a time corresponding with the Winter Session of the state legislature which is underway at present, the 'mook' morcha was organised in the state's second capital in Nagpur for the reservation demands of seeking 16 percent reservation in government jobs and educational institutes, and to secure capital punishment for the rapists of a teenage girl in Ahmednagar district, and also the amendments to the SC/ST Atrocity (Prevention) Act, which they allege is being misused to target the community.
The march started at Yashwant Stadium in south Nagpur in noon and terminated near Vidhan Bhawan (legislature complex) after passing the main streets in Sitabuldi area. A string of politicians across party lines, including legislators, participated in the march that culminated into a rally at T-Point near Assembly Hall where the Winter Session is in progress. From the government, Revenue Minister Chandrakantdada Patil and Parliament Affairs Minister Vinod Tawde reached the venue, where they were apprised of the demands raised by Maratha community by the morcha organiser Madhukar Meherkar. The prominent legislators who participated include Ashish Shelar, Ashish Deshmukh (both BJP), Bharat Gogavale (Shiv Sena), Bhai Jagtap (Congress) and Vidya Chavan (NCP). BJP Rajya Sabha MP and a descendant of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji, Sambhaji Raje Bhosale, also joined the march.
The Maratha protests were low-profile for quite some time after demonetisation and first phase of local municipal bodies polls. In fact, funding for the march which involves arranging for transport and refreshments among other things, post demonistisation of higher currency notes was deemed to be one of the biggest problems, according to Mumbai Mirror.
But this may not be the only reason for the lukewarm response. The Livemint report quotes a BJP legislator as saying that Vidarbha is dominated more by OBCs and Kunbis who are apathetic to the Maratha demands. He went on to say that to involve them the march had even been renamed as Maratha-Kunbi Kranti Morcha.
Towards the end of the march, a delegation of five young girls called on Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, according to a report by The Times of India, making it the first time that the Marathas presented a memorandum directly to the CM, departing from the practice of handing it over to district collectors.
The chief minister has promised that his government will set up a high-profile panel to look into the issues raised by the Maratha community. The proposed panel will have experts and intellectuals to study the issues raised by the community and the services of retired higher and lower court judges from the community, professors and other intellectuals will be availed for preparing a detailed report.
A suggestion in this regard was made by Vinod Tawde and Chandrakant Patil said the panel may include 10 or more members and will meet in Mumbai soon. Fadnavis said the issue of reservation for Marathas is pending before court and the government has roped in top lawyer Harish Salve to fight the case.
The government recently filed a 2500-page affidavit before the Bombay High Court, supporting the demand for 16 percent reservation for the community in jobs and education. Referring to the affidavit, the chief minister said he himself gave the final touch to it and it may come up for hearing on 30 December.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Dec 15, 2016 11:59:39 IST