MUMBAI: Fragmentation on party and ideological lines and failure to unite into a vote bank has led to the decline of Maratha political clout in the state, which worries the community’s leaders in Maharashtra.
Fifteen of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state are witnessing straight contests between Maratha or Kunbi candidates. This will dilute the Maratha factor in this election, community leaders gathered in Solapur for a state-level meeting said.
The community, which had staged 58 mammoth rallies across the state two years ago, has gone back to a state of utter fragmentation. This was reflected in a meeting of Sakal Maratha and Maratha Kranti Morcha leaders which ended with a decision to remain neutral, said Ram Jadhav of Maratha Kranti Morcha.
While some of the leaders say that the community is opposed to the current dispensation in Maharashtra, others say that they can’t forget their betrayal by the Congress and the NCP.
“Quota, educational schemes, loan waiver, rape of a minor at Kopardi, are some of the issues over which the community is agitated. All these issues go against the BJP-Shiv Sena. Though the anger over these issues and hence the ruling dispensation may not be directly beneficial to the opposition, the community won’t be easily deceived henceforth,” said Balasaheb Sarate, an expert on the issue of Maratha quota.
“Politically completely neutral; followers of a particular leader; progressives; and those who align with the Hindutva ideology are the four distinct groups into which the Maratha community is currently divided. There are several subsets and cross sections of all these groups. Due to this kind of fragmentation, the community fails to pursue a single agenda, and on other hand it has lost its position on the agenda of political parties,” said Rajendra Kondhare of Maratha Mahasangh.
As far as the current election is concerned, the community is split between the ruling and the opposition parties, he added.
Shivanand Bhanuse of Sanbhaji Brigade says the biggest failure of the community is its inability to transform itself into a vote bank. “Though the community gathered and displayed its united strength during the quota agitation, it didn’t transform into a vote bank. This is the reason the Maratha community is confused on whom to support,” he said.