By Sushil Kutty
Off and on, like a dormant volcano, the Maharashtra political scene is rocked by tumultuous stirs, most often triggered by farmers but also by demands for a reservation quota for the politically significant Maratha clan. The Maratha quota stir never actually died throughout its life so far, though it has failed to achieve what it set out for. The stir is now back in full swing and there is more than mischief afoot.
Actually plenty of violent acts. The house of an MLA was set ablaze. The Andolanjeevis also vandalized the residences of a couple of legislators of the Ajit Pawar NCP. But it is Supriya Sule of the Sharad Pawar NCP, who has demanded the resignation of Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also happens to be the Home Minister of Maharashtra.
It is Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde who should worry, and not solely because of the Maratha quota stir getting out of hand. Chief Minister Shinde could do with some reassurance following talk in political circles that Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis would replace Shinde.
The speculation stirred political circles but was nipped. Shinde escaped termination. As it is, chief Ministers are having a hard time. For example, Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh. Then, there is the Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, after the Kalamassery blasts. And the latest, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been summoned for questioning by the dreaded Enforcement Directorate.
In Shinde’s case, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis decided not to ‘Mi Punha Yein…’, which is a literal translation of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back” in the movie ‘Terminator’. The speculation came in the midst of criticism that Chief Minister Eknath Shinde hadn’t handled the Maratha quota stir with the finesse it called for.
Shinde and Fadnavis travelled to Delhi while BJP workers in Maharashtra were thrilled at the prospect of Fadnavis returning to the helm. The BJP is not confident Shinde can lead the alliance to victory in the upcoming elections. BJP cadres especially do not have confidence in Eknath Shinde. And they remember how Fadnavis led them to victory “last time”.
For the time being, however, the Maratha quota stir has become a collective headache, especially with violence hitting the streets and arson and vandalism targeting the houses of MLAs. Chief Minister Shinde met Governor Ramesh Bais and called it routine whenever there is “social unrest”. Guv Bais was briefed on the measures taken to control the stir. Later, Shinde met Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis. And as the stir escalated permissible limits of violence, curfew was imposed in Beed district. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is not out of the woods yet. The Maratha quota stir could very well make him hang his chief ministerial boots and return to tending the auto-rickshaw.
The curfew, the arson and the vandals roaming free, none of them can be dismissed with a shrug. They’re all political slingshots that Chief Minister Shinde will have to reckon with unless his government breaks the logjam and sets free the genie. The stir demanding reservation for the Maratha community will be the death of the current regime led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who shouldn’t forget that failure will be his alone to shoulder, and success will be collective.
Among the targets of the stir, a municipal council building and the office of a BJP MLA. Several state transport buses were stoned and highways were blocked. The stir will not be backing off in a hurry, especially in the Marathwada region. Maratha leader Manoj Jarange-Patil is on an indefinite hunger strike. Blame it on Anna Hazare, but every ‘Andolanjeevi’ of Maharashtra goes for an indefinite hunger strike. Jarange-Patil will break fast only if the quota for the Maratha community becomes a reality.
Meantime, hectic meetings are on. And Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is right in the middle of them. The BJP core committee met at Fadnavis’s residence to discuss the quota stir. NCP MLA Prakash Solanke, who is from the Ajit Pawar camp, felt the brunt of the attack. The Maratha community is up in arms against the Shinde Shiv Sena, Ajit Pawar’s NCP and the BJP. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has a lot on his plate. The agitators in Beed did not spare the Sharad Pawar NCP.
The Maratha quota stir will not spare any political party. Fadnavis and Maharashtra are in crisis. The Prime Minister and Union Home minister cannot shirk responsibility. The Chief Minister should summarily sack Home Minister Fadnavis for the failure to anticipate the violence. There is pressure on MLAs to quit. Several have already put in their papers. Speaker Rahul Narwekar is a busy functionary. Two MPs submitted their resignation letters to the Lok Sabha Speaker’s Office. For Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, the stir promises to drag on and on. Jarange-Patil has given notice to this effect and has asked Chief Minister Shinde to “control his people” or else there would be “consequences”. All that is left now is for the INDIA bloc not to look at the gift horse in the mouth. (IPA Service)