In a major move aimed at wooing the politically-significant Marathas, the Congress-NCP government has decided to grant the community reservation in matters of government jobs and education.
Revenue minister Narayan Rane, who has been in the forefront of the campaign for reservation for Marathas, said an official announcement on this would be made on June 21. Rane, a prominent Maratha leader, said the community would be given 20 per cent reservation.
Vinod Tawade, BJP leader, himself a Maratha, welcomed the decision. He, however, stated: "The existing reservation for other backward castes (OBCs) should not be disturbed."
OBCs have, over the years, rallied around the Shiv Sena-BJP combine and have been opposing reservation for Marathas if that involved reduction of seats reserved for them. State NCP leader and senior minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who belongs to OBC category, too has been vehemently opposing this.
To study the socio-economic condition of the Marathas, the government had constituted a committee headed by Rane, which recommended 20% reservation for the community that is spread across the state.
Rane said for the past several years there had been talks of reservation for the Marathas and so much politics had been played around it. But, only now a concrete decision had been taken. According to him, other castes had nothing to worry over this decision.
"We will not disturb reservations meant for other communities," he assured. Rane said the committee had, over the last two years, conducted a survey among five lakh Maratha-Kunbi families involving 18.50 lakh people. The Kunbis are a sub-caste within the Marathas.
Vinayak Mete, MLC and president Shiv Sangram, an organisation of Marathas, welcomed the decision. "The government should make the decision legally foolproof so that it survives any legal challenge," he said, adding: "It will, in particular, help the impoverished sections among the Marathas."
Pravin Gaikwad, president, Sambhaji Brigade, told dna that there was a deliberate attempt by some forces to try and divide the Marathas and the Kunbis. He said both were into farming and formed one community. The Khhatri commission appointed by the state had also noted that Marathas and Kunbis are one community. I am happy the government has realised it and decided to give 20% reservation to Marathas," he said.