MUMBAI: The opposition Congress blamed today Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for the Maratha reservation agitation taking a violent turn and demanded his resignation.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil of the Congress accused the state government of dilly-dallying on the demands of the community when it was taking out "silent" morchas cross the state to press for its demands, including reservation in jobs and education.
Nine policemen were injured in stone pelting, while two protesters attempted suicide during the Maharashtra bandh called by Maratha outfits to press for reservation.
"Fadnavis should have chalked out a time-bound programme to deliver on the promise of Maratha reservation when silent morchas (rallies) were being taken out.
"But, since the BJP government is anti-reservation, it has not given reservation not only to Marathas but also Muslims and Dhangars (shepherd community)," he said.
He said Fadnavis's "provocative" statements on the eve of "Ashadhi Ekadashi" were also responsible for the violence and he should take moral responsibility and quit.
During the just-concluded monsoon session of the legislature in Nagpur, the opposition demanded that the government take steps to provide reservation to Marathas. But, there was no satisfactory response from the government, Vikhe Patil said.
State Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant said Fadnavis'
"irresponsible" statements levelling false allegations against the Maratha quota stir leaders were the main reason for the agitation taking a violent turn.
He alleged the BJP engaged in caste polarisation since the silent morchas were taken out by the community and the ruling party took benefit of the polarisation during the local body elections across the state.
"Now, there is a huge discontent against the BJP government and this is the reason it is pitting Dalits against Marathas by engineering the Bhima-Koregaon violence earlier this year (in Pune district)," Sawant said.
On Sunday, Fadnavis, while announcing his decision not to participate in the annual puja at the Lord Vitthal Temple Pandharpur on the occasion of Ashadhi Ekadashi, said "Police have intercepted some messages, like 'will release snakes among devotees', 'could create a situation that would lead to stampede', among others."
A pro-quota leader of the community had said in Pandharpur that if Fadnavis visited the temple town on July 23, "they will hold a massive protest there and disrupt the puja".
Fadnavis had hit hack at protesters, saying such a move was a shame for a "progressive" state like Maharashtra.
"The puja is beyond politics. But some 10 lakh people (devotees) are there (in Pandharpur). Efforts are being made by some organisations and people to create a lifethreatening situation in Pandharpur," the CM had said.
The Maratha Kranti Morcha, the organisation leading the agitation, has demanded an apology from Fadnavis for alleging that some members from the community were planning violence at Pandharpur.
Fadnavis has said only the courts can take a decision on granting reservation to the Marathas, a politically influential community.
"Some (pro-reservation) organisations are aware of it; still they are instigating the community. If throwing stones at me can get reservation for the Maratha community, then I am ready for it," he had said.
"Those who hold devotees to ransom cannot be called true followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj," the CM had said.