More Rallies, Bigger Crowds: Maratha Stir Puts Fadnavis in a Fix
With Maratha forces coming together across the state, will the Brahmin CM be replaced by a suitable face?
Ganesha is the god believed to remove obstacles in your path. But as the Ganesha festival came to an end, Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis has an obstacle course ahead of him.
Maratha community in Maharashtra started getting united after a girl from the community was gang raped and murdered in July this year. The protest rallies have resumed after the Visarjan day and are drawing larger crowds.
Lakhs of youngsters are participating in these well-organised, seemingly apolitical rallies. As they spread outside the hinterland of Marathwada, the political message of these silent marches is getting louder and louder.
How long will they go on? Will it lead to Maratha versus Dalit clashes? Will it affect upcoming municipal polls in Pune, Mumbai and other cities? Will it cost Fadnavis his chair? Here are the 9 important things you should know.
1. Protests Everyday!
After the brutal gang rape and murder of a minor girl in Ahmadnagar, the first silent protest rally was organised by Maratha organisations in Aurangabad on 10 August. Following that, over 12 huge, silent rallies have been organised and 10 are scheduled till the end of this month.
All Maratha organisations are coming together to hold the final rally in Mumbai in October. The date is yet to be finalised.
2. Crowd Is Getting Bigger
In the initial rallies, the turnout was over a lakh. In smaller districts like Osmanabad or Beed, around 3 lakh people participated according to police estimates.
Organisers claim the number is above 7 lakh. While police estimates are conservative and the latter seem exaggerated, it is certain that the rallies are drawing larger crowds.
3. Mumbai Rally in October
Rallies started in Marathwada, which is the central part of the state. Then, they gradually spread out to Vidarbha, North Maharashtra and later to western Maharashtra. In the last leg, two rallies will be strategically organised in important cities of Nashik (24 September) and Pune (25 September).
The final rally will be held in Mumbai and all Maratha organisations are coming together to bring around 20 lakh protesters on the streets of the financial capital.
4. Anxious CM Blames Opposition
Although the marches are not aimed at any party or government, their undertone is clearly against the Fadnavis government. So, an anxious Fadnavis gave an hour-long interview to state-run Doordarshan Sahyadri channel.
Fadnavis said that over the years, the powerful Maratha elite had enjoyed the fruits of power, but neglected the demands of the economically-backward in the community. He tried to assure community that his government was trying its best to restore reservation for them.
5. Pawar Blames BJP Govt
NCP chief Sharad Pawar was quick to react. He claimed that the Fadnavis government mishandled this year’s drought situation, which ultimately affected the predominantly agrarian Maratha community.
He urged Fadnavis to act instead of engaging in talks with the community, and denied that the party had offered any tacit support to the agitation.
6. Counter-Rallies of Dalits and OBCs?
Maratha rallies have angered both the Dalits and OBCs. Marathas are demanding repeal of Dalit Atrocities Act, which is not at all acceptable to Dalits. OBCs fear that they will suffer if Marathas are included in the OBC bracket.
Some Dalit and OBC organisations are contemplating taking out counter-rallies. Republican leader Prakash Ambedkar has made an appeal to Dalits not to counter Marathas as it could lead to caste violence.
7. Home Dept Worried About Law & Order
Over a lakh of angry protesters gathering everyday in some part of the state is a nightmare for the Home Department. Officials in the department say that they are keeping a close eye on these rallies. Although the marches have been silent so far, they worry that anti-social elements may try to instigate the protesters.
8. Effect on Polls in Pune, Mumbai
Come February, and polls will be held for 10 important municipal corporations including Mumbai, Thane and Pune. The city of Pune is an interesting case as it is currently ruled by NCP, a party known for its Maratha base.
However, during Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the city overwhelmingly voted for the BJP. Having won all 8 Assembly seats in Pune, BJP had hopes for a better performance in the upcoming municipal polls. But with a Maratha rally scheduled on 25 September, it fears that the vote may drift towards the NCP.
9. Will Fadnavis Be Removed?
This is the million dollar question. Political circles are abuzz with rumours that Fadnavis may not be able to complete his term.
The argument is that the BJP will be forced to replace the Brahmin CM by an OBC or a Maratha face. However, sources in the BJP clearly say that Fadnavis enjoys unequivocal support of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi and there is no possibility of him being removed at this stage.
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