Mumbai: In a big concession to the Maratha community, which is on the warpath demanding quota, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday announced that the government would put on hold the mega recruitment to 72,000 government jobs till the Maratha quota was put in place. The Maratha organizations had made this demand so that at least 16% jobs could be reserved for the Marathas when the quota is granted.

In a televised address, Fadnavis also announced that the government would complete all the legal formalities for the Maratha quota latest by November this year “at all costs". “If the legal formalities are not completed by November, we will call a special session of the state legislature to complete those," Fadnavis said.

In a desperate need to break the ice with the Maratha organizations who have refused to hold talks with the government till a written commitment to Maratha quota and a time-bound programme was given, the chief minister went on the state-owned Doordarshan channel ‘Sahyadri’ on Sunday evening to reach out to the Marathas and explain to the people in state the steps his government had taken towards giving the Maratha quota.

Fadnavis appealed to the Maratha organizations to call off their protest and cooperate with the government by holding talks and making suggestions to better implement schemes the government has initiated for the community. Fadnavis also urged the political parties to stop indulging in politics on this issue and project the image of a “progressive, united, and harmonious Maharashtra".

Reminding the protestors that violent protests were bringing a bad name to Maharashtra and could shake the investor confidence in the state, Fadnavis said a “handful of people" had also brought bad name to the peaceful Maratha mobilization.

Welcoming the chief minister “positive" announcement that the mega recruitment was being put on hold till the legal procedure was completed for the Maratha quota, Abasaheb Patil, one of the coordinators of the Sakal Maratha Samaj which is spearheading the protest, said government should give this commitment in writing. Patil also demanded that all offences registered against the protesters be withdrawn immediately.

The chief minister said the Maharashtra Commission for the Backward Classes will submit a time-bound programme to the Bombay High Court on 7 August. “The report will spell out the time frame for giving the quota which the government would follow," Fadnavis said. Maintaining that the Commission was an autonomous body and could not be pressured to give an early report, Fadnavis said issuing an ordinance or passing another act to give the Maratha quota would not be a legally tenable exercise.

“The ordinance will make us happy for two days but it won’t stand the legal test. Please remember that as per the Supreme Court ruling, the social and economic backwardness of a community seeking quota has to be justified with quantifiable data and the Commission is doing exactly this. If the Commission gives its report earlier than November, we will call a special session of the legislature within one month of the report being submitted. In any case, we will complete the legal procedures latest by November end," Fadnavis said