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Home / Politics / Policy /  Devendra Fadnavis govt faces heat over Maratha quota

Mumbai: The Maratha stir for quotas in education and jobs continued in Maharashtra on Thursday, flaring up sporadically, mounting pressure on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government to find a quick political solution to the legal impasse.

The government, in particular chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, faced criticism from several quarters including ally Shiv Sena, for “inept" leadership, following which Fadnavis decided to go into a huddle with Maratha BJP ministers in his cabinet on Thursday night to thrash out a solution.

A senior BJP leader and minister told Mint that Shiv Sena ministers had not been called for the meeting. “The chief minister may call non-Maratha BJP ministers also if he wishes but Shiv Sena ministers have not been invited," said this minister requesting anonymity.

Senior BJP leaders and ministers Chandrakant Patil, Vinod Tawde, Subhash Deshmukh, Pravin Pote-Patil, and Ranjit Patil are likely to attend the meeting, this minister said. State BJP president Raosaheb Danve, who is a Maratha, may also attend the meeting, he added.

Asked why the Maratha ministers from the Shiv Sena were not invited, the minister said it was not a cabinet meeting. “It is BJP’s internal meeting. Why should Shiv Sena be invited," he said.

He conceded that the government was under “immense pressure" to find a “political solution to what is essentially a constitutional and legal impasse".

“The argument that the case is pending before the court, though legitimate, is not going to pacify the Marathas, nor is it a political response to the situation that has developed in the last four days. We understand that we have to win back the confidence of the Maratha community and bring it on board again for talks but before we start discussions we have to have some solution that we can put on the table," this minister said.

After Fadnavis told the community on Wednesday that the state government was ready for talks, Vinod Patil, one of the coordinators of Sakal Maratha Samaj, the umbrella organization of Marathas spearheading the quota stir, and a petitioner in the Bombay high court, said the Marathas had no problem holding talks provided the government did not speak with a few “handpicked" people from the community.

“We welcome the chief minister’s call for talks but the government should not hold one on one talks with chosen individuals like in the past," Patil told reporters.

The BJP-led government came in for sharp attack from opposition parties and even the Shiv Sena for its response to the Maratha quota stir. While state Congress president Ashok Chavan held Fadnavis entirely responsible for angering the Maratha community with “irresponsible statements", Shiv Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ wrote a scathing editorial saying people in Maharashtra had every right to know what the chief minister was doing during the 24 hours when the protest flared up. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray went to the extent of demanding that the government step down if it could not handle the situation.

Meanwhile, the Maratha protestors continued their protest in parts of Sangli, Pune, and Sindhudurg districts. On Thursday, BJP’s Maratha legislators from Nashik—Rahul Aaher and Seema Hire—offered their resignations to the Sakal Maratha Samaj co-ordinators to support the demand for quota. Nationalist Congress Party legislator Ramesh Kadam also sent his resignation to the legislative assembly speaker Haribhau Rathod on Thursday. Shiv Sena’s Maratha legislator Harshwardhan Jadhav and NCP’s Bhausaheb Patil-Chikatgaonkar had sent in their resignations on Wednesday to build pressure on the government to deliver on the quota promise.

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