Mumbai: The Maharashtra has fallen silent after a major upheavel followed by Dalit protests across the state. But is it the peace time or lull before the storm. While dalits are yet to finish their steps of agitation, Marathas are readying themselves for yet another agitation. This will trigger outbreak of yet another caste conflicts. This time NCP leader Sharad Pawar who is Maratha is set to play up caste card against the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who is a Brahmin. As Maratha Maha Sangh is planning to revive its pro-reservation stir across the state next month, Pawar has also prepped up to cash on the opportunity.
A sizeable section in the state BJP is of the view that the Sharad Pawar-led NCP is closing in on Fadnavis chiefly because he is a Brahmin. “It is politically convenient for them to dub the Fadnavis government casteist as the CM belongs to the Brahmin community,” said a state BJP veteran, adding, “The NCP is playing the Maratha card to perpetuate the caste conflict in Maharashtra.” Arjun Dangle, a key Dalit strategist and writer who heads the Dalit Jan Shakti Sanghatana, was quick to rebut the BJP charge against Pawar. “In fact, Pawar was the first to issue an appeal for communal harmony and peace,” he said.
Sources said the BJP is worried on two counts: First, the unprecedented show of strength by Dalits across the state on Wednesday. Life came to a standstill in many districts, including Pune, Satara, Kolhapur, Jalgaon, Aurangabad and coastal Konkan too—regions that are considered bastions of traditional political parties such as the BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP.
Second, that the simmering caste conflict, largely considered a rural issue, should cripple Mumbai for a good 10 hours has sent alarm bells ringing in the BJP, given the city’s status as the country’s financial capital, said observers.
BJP national president Amit Shah is reported to be closely monitoring the situation in Mumbai. The party high command asked Fadnavis in the early hours of Wednesday to handle the law and order situation calmly, it is learnt.
“This explains why the Mumbai police did not come down heavily on Dalit protesters on the city’s streets,” said a key party functionary. “The whole idea was to let them vent their spleen,” he added. He admitted that the well-oiled networking of Dalits across Mumbai was “amazing”. “A lot of planning seems to have gone into the stir,” he said.
Many in the BJP admit that the party is paying a price for failing to curb the hawks who keep blowing the Hindutva trumpet with scant regard for the state’s inclusive character. Meanwhile, Bharatiya Republican Party chief Prakash Ambedkar, who spearheaded— with ample backing from 12 Dalit groups— the statewide bandh, has made matters difficult for Fadnavis by demanding that Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote should be arrested and tried under Section 302 of the IPC.