MUMBAI: By assuring the Maratha community of better education and job opportunities, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis appears to have clinched their support.
The three-lakh-strong crowd, which gathered at the Azad Maidan today was elated when the delegation that met the chief minister announced the new schemes.
However, Maharashtra's Opposition leaders Ajit Pawar and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil were far from happy. They accused Fadnavis of repeating the old assurances. The Opposition then staged a walkout in protest. The scene at the legislative council was not much different.
Defending Fadnavis, BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said: “This is just like the farmers’ agitation. The chief minister had studied all aspects of issues facing Marathas and presented a scheme."
“The political parties, who always treated the social groups like the Marathas solely as a vote bank and never cared for their overall development would be at a loss politically. They have sensed this, and hence the hue and cry,” Bhandari said.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha MP Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje, who is a direct descendent of the warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji, said that many of the schemes announced by Fadnavis today were directly linked to education and employment opportunities. "This is more important than just caressing the old emotive issues,” he said. “The community has its own pride. But, will have to change according to the times to stay ahead in the race,” he said.
Earlier, it was feared that if disappointed, the Marathas may move to the fold of aggressive organizations like the Sambhaji Brigade. Such a move would have stroked the communal tensions in the state. However, Prakash Pawar, a professor of political science at the Shivaji University in Kolhapur said that such a scenario was unlikely to materialize as the community had ganged up against its own leaders and was divided.