Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has decided to call a special session of the state legislature to complete the constitutional requirements to give quota in jobs and education to the Maratha community. Speaking to reporters on Sunday after holding talks with representatives of the Maratha community, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the state government has requested the state backward classes commission to submits its report as early as possible.
“Once we receive the report, we will call the special session of the state legislature within a month to complete the constitutional formalities necessary to give quota to the Maratha community," Fadnavis told reporters.
Fadnavis also told the representatives of the Maratha community that the government would withdraw cases of minor offences registered against Maratha protesters during last week’s agitation. However, offences lodged for assaulting the police personnel would not be withdrawn, he added.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Shiv Sena have decided to hold independent meetings of their legislators on the issue on Monday. Following the meeting, the NCP delegation plans to meet the governor and chairman of the state backward classes commission.
After holding an all-party meeting on the issue on Saturday, the chief minister said that since the commission was a constitutional and autonomous body, the state government could not set a deadline for it to submit the report. A senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and minister, who did not want to be named, said the commission may take at least four months to draft its report and submit it.
“The all-party meeting decided that a special sitting of the legislature be held to complete the constitutional formalities required to give quota to the Maratha community. The government would take whatever steps the commission recommends in its report to ensure that quota is given to the Marathas. We have also requested the commission to submit the report as early as possible," Fadnavis said.
The decision follows the violent Maratha protests across the state in the last few days. Fadnavis said all parties had agreed that the Maratha community must maintain calm and not adopt extreme measures. Representatives of political parties who attended the all-party meeting also agreed that Marathas should be given quota and that the opposition parties would support the government in this. Legislative assembly speaker Haribhau Bagde and legislative council chairman Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar also attended the meeting.
Congress member and leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly Radharishna Vikhe-Patil said the all-party meeting reflected “belated wisdom" that had dawned upon the government, but agreed that the Maratha community should maintain calm. “We will support whatever steps the government takes towards giving quota to the Marathas and cooperate with the government on this," Vikhe-Patil told reporters.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar also echoed this sentiment and assured that the opposition would not be indulging in politics on this issue. Both the opposition leaders demanded that the offences registered against Maratha protesters for violence and arson be withdrawn.
“Whatever steps the government takes must ensure that the Maratha quota survives the legal test in the court," Pawar said. In 2014, the Bombay high court struck down an ordinance issued by the then Congress-NCP government giving 16% quota to the Marathas. When the BJP-led government later converted this ordinance into an Act, the Bombay HC stayed it in 2015.
The Maharashtra government has already taken a stand in favour of the quota in the Bombay High Court which is hearing the matter. On the HC’s directions, the government has referred the matter to the Commission for the Backward Classes which, according to Fadnavis, has completed the process of public hearings, and is now in the process of drafting the report. On 27 July, a delegation of BJP ministers and leaders met the commission chairman M.G. Gaikwad and member Suvarna Rawal to request an early submission of the report.