The spreading Maratha quota agitation, largely unorganised, has also reflected the fragmented and weakened state of the ruling camp as well as the Opposition parties.
The ruling side is led by two Maratha leaders, Shinde and Ajit, and an experienced Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had been the CM during 2014-19. Yet, it is struggling to deal with the Maratha agitation led by an activist Manoj Jarange-Patil, who was virtually unknown in the state a few months ago.
Jarange-Patil has continued his indefinite hunger strike seeking reservation for Marathas since October 25 at his village in Jalna district. Although the Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM) is backing his campaign, the organisation is split in multiple groups.
It is a different matter that the MKM had spearheaded the community’s quota campaign from 2016 to 2018, which was spread across 355 talukas in 36 districts.
On Monday, with Fadnavis engaged in campaigning for his party in Chhattisgarh and Ajit indisposed, the onus fell on CM Shinde to tackle the violence that erupted during the Maratha quota stir.
The day also coincided with the Supreme Court directing Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar to decide the disqualifications petitions related to the Sena split by December 31, and the matter related to the NCP split by January 31, 2024.
State BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule said, “Maratha agitation is a sensitive issue given its complexities. So it has to be tackled patiently. The three parties are working as a team.”
What remains unexplained, say observers, is the question, why the government could not resolve the issue by taking it up with the quota activists in the 40-day deadline set by Jarange-Patil when he ended the first phase of his stir on September 14.
“The state with multiple political parties presents a vulnerable picture. Whether it is ruling combine or Opposition, they are divided and weak,” Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar said. “When neither ruling side nor Opposition is strong politically, unorganised groups emerge stronger and overpower the established leaders and parties.”