Maharashtra to try untying the tangled knot of Maratha quotas (Lead)

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Mumbai : The Maharashtra government has convened an all-party meeting on Saturday in a bid to disentangle the tangled knot of Maratha reservations which sparked a state-wide agitation, at least three deaths, and resignations by five legislators.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance has assured suitable reservations to the politically significant Maratha community during its current tenure, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is likely to hammer out the nitty-gritties of the issue at the meeting.

There has been a clamour from several Maratha groups, the opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and even some leaders of the ruling combine to convene a special session of Maharashtra legislature to discuss and resolve the issue, besides involving the Central government.

On Friday evening, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil met and deliberated on the issue in detail with retired Justice M. G. Gaikwad, the head of Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC).

On Thursday night, Fadnavis chaired a meeting of his senior cabinet ministers and BJP state president Raosaheb Danve-Patil to work out a solution to the Maratha reservations issue on which sporadic protests continued for the fifth day on Friday.

"Our government is fully committed to providing reservations to the Maratha community and has even promulgated an Ordinance on this. However, there is a court stay on this. We will submit a report of the MSBCC to the court and plea to decide the issue soon," Patil said.

To ensure that the state government's proposal to give a 16 percent reservations in government jobs and education sector pass the court test, the MSBCC has been entrusted with the job of collecting data on the socio-economic status of the Maratha community.

He said so far the MSBCC has received over 187,000 representations and the survey work is likely to be completed by August-end.

Meanwhile, Congress state President Ashok Chavan on Friday called upon Shiv Sena to withdraw support to the BJP government in order to build pressure on it to resolve the Maratha quota issue.

"The previous Congress-NCP regime had given quotas to the Marathas and Muslim communities, but the BJP-Sena government could not protect it, and it took them 17 months merely to file one affidavit," Chavan said in a fresh salvo.

He demanded that the state government withdraw all cases filed against Marathas for the recent agitation in the state and stop the ongoing combing operations in which innocent youth are being targeted.

So far, five legislators from various parties have either quit or offered to quit on the ticklish issue that has snowballed into a major political crisis ahead of the 2019 elections.

The include Harshawardhan Jadhav (Shiv Sena), BJP's Seema Hirey and Rahul Aher, and opposition Congress' Bharat Bhalke and NCP's Bhausaheb Chikatgaonkar and Ramesh Kadam.