MUMBAI: Maratha groups staged protests, as a new outfit named Maharashtra Kranti Sena, launched itself into the state's political arena on the auspicious occasion of Diwali Padwa, on Thursday.
"Around 5,000 supporters had gathered at the Raireshwar Temple where Shivaji Maharaj had taken oath to form 'Swarajya' in 1645. We all pledged to launch the new political party," Suresh Patil, the founder of the outfit, said.
Patil had been associated with the quota agitation of the Maratha community for around 10 years. "The new party will pursue the quota as well as the other demands for all-round development of the Maratha community," he said, adding that the party is aiming at contesting five Lok Sabha and 50 Assembly seats in 2019. He also claimed support from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP and a descendant of Shivaji, Udayanreje Bhonsale and prominent farmer leader from Kolhapur, Raghunath Patil, among several others.
However, Mumbai coordinator of Maratha Morcha, Mahesh Rane, along with around 100 supporters, staged protests at the Raireshwar Mandir against the formation of the party. Several other Maratha groups from Nashik, Aurangabad and Pune, too, staged demonstrations at their respective places. These groups said that the Maratha quota stir needs to be apolitical.
"Which is why we have used the word Maharashtra instead of Maratha while naming our party," Patil said.
While Patil has been claiming the support of top leaders for the Maratha agitation, his opponents alleged that he is BJP's puppet and the formation of the new party shall ultimately help the BJP in the state.
Harshwardhan Yadav, Shiv Sena MLA from Kannad in Aurangabad district, also announced the launch of a new Maratha party. Jadhav is the son-in-law of state BJP president Raosaheb Danve.
"We expect the Maratha youth to come along with us in large numbers. If this happens, it would have a disruptive effect in state politics in a manner similar to what the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has had on the Muslim vote-bank in the state. Just like the MIM, which has been gaining popularity in the Muslim community, our party, too, can become the sole voice of the Maratha community," Patil said a few weeks ago.
However, Praveen Gaikwad, president of Sambhajai Brigade, points out that there had been several efforts to organise the Maratha community under a political banner and all have miserably failed. Kranti Sena of Shalinitai Patil, Maratha Seva Sangh, Chhava, Shivarajya Party and Sambhaji Brigade of Purshottam Khedkar are some of such failed efforts in the last two decades.
Community-based groups can, at best, work as pressure groups, as, the moment they venture into politics, their hold on people starts fading out, Gaikwad said. This has always happened in Maharashtra and there seems no reason why it won't happen again, Gaikwad said.