The Shiv Sena on Monday said it supported the Maratha community's demands for reservations in educational institutions and government jobs.
The Sena's comments came a day after Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said a special session of the Maharashtra legislature would be convened to pass a "law or a resolution" on providing reservation for Marathas. He said that a special session of the House would be called after the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission submitted its report to the state government.
Following this, however, the Sena said there was no need to wait for the Backward Class Commission to submit its report, and urged the state government to immediately convene a session to discuss the issue.
As reported by The Times of India, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray also came out in support of reservations, saying the "need of the hour" is to pacify Marathas.
"The Sena doesn't want the peace of the state to be impaired on the reservation issue. Whatever may be the criteria, the Maratha community's demands should be met immediately," Thackeray was quoted as saying in the report, while adding that quota benefits for the Marathas shouldn't come at the cost of other communities' reservations.
The Sena wasn't alone in seeking reservations for Marathas; the Congress also backed the protesters' demands. The latter also wrote to Maharashtra governor C Vidyasagar Rao, urging him to intervene in the matter and direct the state government to expedite its efforts to provide 16 percent reservation to the Marathas, ANI reported.
The Congress accused the state government of "dilly-dallying" in proffering reservation to Marathas and said the government would be to blame if law and order deteriorated because it did not announce a decision on the quota demand immediately.
Interestingly, however, The Times of India report mentioned that the stance taken by the Sena goes completely contrary to the party's viewpoint on the reservation issue during the Bal Thackeray years. The Sena founder had maintained that reservations should be economic in nature and not caste-based. This stance helped the Sena consolidate its position at a time when it was confined to the cities of Mumbai, Thane and Pune, the report added.
However, now the party has begun looking at other parts of the state. "Our chief concern now is to retain the Sena's Maratha vote bank in the hinterland of the state in the face of a strident electoral threat from the Congress-NCP combine," a senior party functionary was quoted in the article as saying.
Shiv Sena's traditional stand on reservations
The Sena has traditionally always been against offering reservations to communities in the state. In the 1990s, during the Mandal Commission agitation, the Sena was the only party that opposed implementation of the recommended reservations for OBCs.
The Sena risked alienating its large OBC votebank in order to oppose reservations, and even lost prominent OBC leader from Maharashtra, Chagan Bhujbal, who quit the party to join the Congress over the issue, but still didn't change its standpoint on the issue.
As party spokesperson Sanjay Raut explained back in 2012, it was a decision born out of the party's ideology. "Shiv Sena has been holding this stand for long. It is not a political stand for vote bank politics, it is a stand for social justice. We hold that no one should get reservation on the basis of religion or caste," Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut told reporters here.
Instead of this, they said, the reservations should be in favour of economically backward people. "My party right from the beginning is for giving preference in employment to economically weaker people. Economically backward people should get preference. This has been brought in the wake of compulsion due to social circumstances. We may support the reservations," party leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Manohar Joshi had said back in 2004.
However, India Today reported that the Marathas are far more important to the party today than the OBCs were back in the 90s. The community is numerically very strong — nearly one-third of the state's population — while most of the ministers in the Maharashtra state government are also Marathas.
And so, the report mentioned, it may have been more politically expedient for the party to deviate from Bal Thackeray's stated objective of not practising caste-based politics or reservations on community lines.
Updated Date: Jul 31, 2018 13:56 PM