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Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Monday that the BJP leadership would not drop him “merely because I am Brahmin". In an informal interaction with journalists days ahead of his government’s completion of two years in office, Fadnavis— only the second Brahmin chief minister of Maharashtra —said he did not think the Maratha caste unrest in Maharashtra was directed personally at him.

“I do not think the Maratha discontent has surfaced because I am a Brahmin. There are other larger and deeper reasons," Fadnavis said.

The first Brahmin chief minister of Maharashtra, Shiv Sena’s Manohar Joshi in 1995-1999, was replaced by Maratha leader Narayan Rane. Fadnavis said he would remain chief minister for the full five years of his term unless he took wrong decisions or was considered “inefficient". Edited excerpts:

Is Maharashtra on the brink of caste wars with Marathas protesting and Dalits and OBCs also consolidating?

I do not think we have a caste war-like situation. The Marathas are protesting over genuine grievances and we have addressed some of those. We are making a strong legal case for the Maratha reservation too and also looking beyond reservation to create job opportunities for the Maratha youths.

There is some feeling of insecurity among Dalits over the Maratha mobilization but even their (Dalit) protests have been positive in the sense they have condemned the Kopardi crime (rape and killing of a Maratha girl in Kopardi town) and supported Maratha reservation.

Protests are happening in a peaceful and democratic manner which is fair. One can’t say it is a caste-war situation.

Is the fact that you are only the second Brahmin chief minister of Maharashtra one of the reasons for the Maratha protest?

I do not think so. My caste has nothing to the Maratha grievances which are much larger and deeper, and have to do with social, economic, cultural, and historical factors. These grievances have accumulated over a period of time and they have not cropped up in the last two years of my rule. Let me tell you this. I am absolutely sure that my party will not remove me as chief minister because I am a Brahmin. I could be removed for any other reason like for taking wrong decisions or being inefficient. But not for caste. I am here for the entire duration of my term.

Who do you think is behind creating this perception that your caste is one of the reasons for the Maratha unrest?

There are a few politicians who are trying to take political advantage of the Maratha unrest. They are doing this because they have either been checkmated or driven to desperation because of loss of political power in Maharashtra.

Can you name these politicians?

Everybody knows them.

None of the government-appointed commissions have so far accepted the claim that Marathas are historically, socially, and economically backward. Why do you think the Bombay High Court will accept this claim now?

Because we are providing historical data, evidence, and statistics to prove that Marathas are historically, socially, and economically backward. None of the commissions accepted it because no commission has ever done an extensive study to measure the historical, social, and economic backwardness of the Maratha community. There should have been a scientific survey done on the same parameters by which OBCs were rightly considered backward. We are providing all these data.

How realistic, politically and legally, is the Maratha demand to scrap or amend the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act? It is a central Act.

Most of the organizers of the Maratha protest I have spoken to have not demanded that the Atrocities Act be scrapped. What they are opposing is misuse of the Act. On this, I have also spoken with Dalit leaders who also said that the Act should not be misused.

We are doing an analysis of the incidences of the misuse of this act and information is being sought from all over the state.

We have received some drafts from the Maratha organizations and some from internal sources. We will find out a mutually acceptable solution.

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