The OBC community will have to stand on its own, says Prakash Ambedkar.
The Maharashtra government has declared it would provide 16 per cent reservation to the Maratha community in government jobs. The decision was taken after the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission, appointed by the state government, suggested that the community is a socially and educationally backward class (SEBC). AMEY TIRODKAR speaks to Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar, a former Member of Parliament and the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, on the ramifications of the move.
What is your view on the Maharashtra government’s decision?
It is an opportunistic decision, because the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had assured the Dhangar (Shepherd) community of reservation in the first Cabinet itself if it was voted to power. What happened to that? The Maratha community launched a strong agitation against the BJP government and people took to the streets in lakhs. Just before the elections, the state government came up with the decision. So it is politically motivated and opportunistic to the core.
From the legal perspective, the last government had given the “educationally and socially backward class” status to the Maratha community. This government has termed it a “socially and educationally backward class”. Will this stand in court?
It’s just a play on words. We must understand that the Bombay high court has given a stay on the Maratha reservation that was granted by the earlier government. These people (the government) went to the Supreme Court. But that too has rejected the case. So, what new thing did this government do which could stand in court? Frankly, it has done nothing new. So, whatever it may say in the public domain, the court will continue the stay. It won’t be lifted.
But the state government is suggesting that it had formed a commission and established the backwardness of the community. Earlier, there was only a committee of ministers. Don’t you think this may help the state government in court?
See, there have been three commissions till now. The earlier two commissions were formed by consecutive governments: the Bapat Commission and the Saraf Commission. Both commissions rejected reservation for Marathas. So in that case, it is two against one. Also, we must note that both the chairpersons of the commissions were also high court judges. The Rane committee (a special committee headed by then-industry minister Narayan Rane to study the quetion of Maratha reservation in educational and jobs sectors) was not a commission.
So you think the commission’s findings won’t be of much help to the state government while arguing in court?
To get a clear picture, we need to see the exact provision in the Constitution. The Supreme Court has said that the while appointing the judges, the President shall consult the Chief Justice of India. The meaning of “consult” is also decided. That goes through a consortium. So the states’ different commissions shall be constituted in consultation with the state government. That’s why chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the government would consult with lawyers about the commission’s report. All these legal angles will be debated before the court and the state government will have to come up with satisfactory answers.
Do you support the idea of Maratha reservation?
I would suggest that the Maratha community should introspect. For the past 70 years, there were Maratha chief ministers, and ministers and all political positions were occupied by people from the Maratha community only. Not just that, Members of Parliament were also Marathas in large numbers. So the Maratha community should introspect as to why such a leading community in the state lagged behind.
But you agree that there are people from the community who are economically weak, and they support the demand for reservation?
See, I agree that there is a disparity in the Maratha community. There are two sections in the community. I call one section Nizami Marathas. They had been rulers for ages. The other section is Shivaji’s Marathas. This section is poor. Now, Nizami Marathas continued in their positions of power for a long time and received all its benefits. But poor Marathas have been left behind. That’s why I suggest that they should introspect. They should say that reservation should be given to these poor Marathas. This will help them while earning the support of other communities. Otherwise, they will fall into the trap of OBCs versus Marathas, which is sponsored by this government.
Do you say a conflict between OBCs and Marathas is sponsored by the state government?
Yes. There were press conferences of a number of OBC leaders in a few districts. See, the category that is now being given to Marathas — SEBC — is an existing category that is equal to OBC. So this decision will indirectly push Marathas into the OBC category. This means this government has intentionally created a permanent rift between Marathas and OBCs.
But OBCs have been the backbone of the BJP. So will there be a backlash against the party?
Certainly. Now OBCs will move politically. Till now, they were with the BJP. But now hey will go against the BJP for sure. The OBC community will have to stand on its own. That is the only way ahead for it now.
But who will be benefit from this — the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)?
I don’t think so. Both parties are under Maratha — and that too Nizami Maratha — leadership. I don’t know where these OBCs will go, but they are unlikely to move towards the Congress and NCP.
There are similar demands of other castes in Haryana and Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Do you think this Maratha reservation decision will have an impact on those demands?
There will be impact for sure. But in what way? That I can’t predict right now. Because the caste proportion in those different states are different than in Maharashtra. The situation is also not matching everywhere. So, the leaders of their agitations will cite the Maratha reservation process in their protests, but I don’t see any further impact as of now.