Nagpur: The much anticipated and much discussed Maratha-Kunbi Mukh Kranti Morcha in which lakhs were supposed to participate saw less than even 30,000 finally march towards the Vidhan Sabha from various points of the city.
Congress Maratha leaders absent
What was more interesting was the conspicuous absence of Congress Maratha leaders like Prithviraj Chauhan, former C.M., Ashok Chauhan, President of Maharashtra Congress and two time former C.M., Narayan Rane, another C.M.,Vikhe Patil, leader of Opposition and Manikrao Thakre. Some city leaders, like Dr. Amol Deshmukh of Congress, Anil Deshmukh and his son Salil Deshmukh of NCP were there. They could be called the exceptions. Amol’s elder brother Ashish, MLA from Katol was very visible too – but then he is with the BJP now.
Why were these Maratha stalwarts absent though Winter assembly is on requiring their presence in Nagpur?
One reason could be that BJP leaders, getting too clever by half, tried to hijack the Maratha unrest for their party.
Hijack attempt by BJP
It must be mentioned here that though the Maratha agitation has blessings of thespians like Sharad Pawar, it has managed to be stringently apolitical till now. Th organizers have scrupulously guarded this autonomy.
The Nagpur morcha was supposed to be a grand culmination of the 50+ morchas held statewide till now. With politics in mind, the BJP has already begun planning and making preparations for the Nagpur Maratha Kranti Morcha — scheduled for 14 December during the Winter Session. The BJP MLA and city party president Ashish Shelar began discussions with many MLAs . Most Vidarbha MLAs are from BJP so scope of participation of other parties was minimal. Like Shelar, BJP council member Pravin Darekar also took the lead in the Upper House. Both are considered to be close to Devendra Fadnavis, C.M.
Soon after the winter session started, chief minister himself wasted no time in assuring the Assembly that his government is committed to providing reservation for the Maratha community. Normally, the discussion is started by Opposition parties, but in a rare occurrence, it was the ruling BJP that expressed its keenness to start the Maratha Kranti Morcha discussion.
Not to be outdone by BJP, Shiv Sena Maratha leaders donned saffron turbans in the House today to show solidarity with people marching on the street provoking Vikhe Patil to take a dig at them.
So polarized the atmosphere seems to have become that Marathas from Western Maharashtra, particularly Nasik, Mumbai, Satara , Kolhapur etc. and Aurangabad (from Marathwada) did not obviously come to join the morcha.
Kunbis outnumber Marathas in Vidarbha
Another fact is that the percentage of the Maratha Community in the Nagpur and Vidarbha region is barely 15 to 20 percent. Kunbis are more prominent here, though both communities have same origins.
As Amol Deshmukh explained, all followers and associates of Shivaji Maharaj were Marathas. But the Shivaji followers who settled in Vidarbha in large numbers registered themselves as Kunbis when caste census and registration was carried out post independence. Some even registered as ‘dhangars’ – shepherds.
Kunbis of Vidarbha were mostly into farming and some were included in OBCs and began getting reservations which Marathas did not get. (There are many sub castes within all Hindu castes leading to confusion in reservation policies).
This could be another factor why Kunbis of Vidarbha did not participate in the rally today in the expected numbers though it was given their name – Sakal Kunbi Maratha Silent Morcha.
Political observors also opine that people of Vidarbha are not very pro active when it comes to public participation in processions, morchas etc.
Today’s morcha – a damp squib
Finally, whatever the reasons were, the silent morcha today was not a success – if one goes only by numbers. Yes, they were well organized, disciplined and saw participation of many girls and women.
It was obvious the state and local adminstration had bent over backwards to ensure everything went smoothly. The CM was at hand and made himself readily available to the delegation – of women – who handed over the demands.
But that was all. If the BJP had planned on taking credit for the success of a Huge Morcha, it has failed in its objectives.
The scene of the action is now again Mumbai.
The community is planning a maha morcha in Mumbai in the new year, a Mumbai Morcha organiser told the media . Lakhs of people are expected to take to the streets to ask the government why their demands have yet to be met.