MUMBAI: After the agitation launched by Maratha outfits for reservation in Maharashtra turned violent last month and the government reluctant to heed their demands, the Maratha groups are planning to launch a new political party.
With the party likely to be launched around Diwali, many feel the move would ultimately help the BJP in the state.
The proposal to launch a party was made by Suresh Patil, convenor of Sakal Maratha Samaj and president of Maratha Kranti Sanghatan, both based out of Kolhapur, on September 12.
"We expect Maratha youth to come along with us in large numbers. If this happens, it would lead to disruptive effect like that of what All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) did to the Muslim vote bank. Just as the AIMIM is gaining popularity in the Muslim community, the Maratha party can become the sole representative of the Maratha community,” said Patil.
Maratha groups from Aurangabad soon followed the suit.
Subsequently, Shiv Sena MLA from Kannad in Aurangabad district Hashwardhan Jadhav, who had last month resigned in support of the quota stir, announced that he was floating a new party "to ensure social equilibrium". He indicated that the agenda would be to make quota demand as the party's main plank.
Jadhav also accused the Shiv Sena of trying to gag him over the issue of Maratha quota. "I do not like dictatorship by political parties, whether it is Shiv Sena, BJP or others. I will form a new political party which will work only for the community," he said.
Jadhav, who is the son-in-law of state BJP president Raosaheb Danve, has decided to contest the next Lok Sabha and Assembly polls scheduled in 2019.
The Opposition sees the development as the BJP's poll strategy to split rivals' votes and says the impact would be short-lived. Praveen Gaikwad, president of Sambhaji Brigade, points at another fact that Patil, who floated the idea of separate party, is a BJP member. "Political party of Marathas will prove to be an advantage for BJP," Gaikwad said.
"The BJP governments everywhere are trying to isolate dominant communities like the Marathas, Jats and Patidars and are trying to woo the OBCs and the SC/ST communities. Strengthening the SC/ST Act despite the Supreme Court ruling was the proof of that. Marathas floating a political party would help them easily gather other parties around themselves," he said.
The move may not stand the test of the times, say observers, as several efforts to organise the community under political banners such as the Kranti Sena of Shalinitai Patil, Maratha Seva Sangh, Chhava, Shivarajya Party or even the Sambhaji Brigade of Purshottam Khedkar have miserably failed in the past two decades.