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Controversy Sparks in Shinde Government Over Reservation: Ministers Clash on Maratha Issue

Devendra Fadnavis's Silence Fuels Dispute within Coalition Government

November 08, 2023: The Shinde government’s successful resolution of Manoj Jarange-Patil’s hunger strike has paved the way for a new controversy regarding Maratha reservation within the state. While the agitation for Maratha reservation rages on, two of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s colleagues appear to be distancing themselves from the issue, triggering a dispute among government ministers over reservation policies. This development raises questions about the unity of the three-party grand coalition government and whether it is attempting a delicate balancing act.

Ajit Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Minister, Chhagan Bhujbal, expressed objections to the government’s approach, likening the granting of Kunbi certificates to the Maratha community to a backdoor entry for OBCs. He criticized the government’s stance, stating that the reservation for the Maratha community should not come at the expense of OBC reservation. Bhujbal emphasized his concern that the government’s approach might allow others to enter through the back door.

Within 24 hours of Chhagan Bhujbal’s press conference, Shiv Sena Minister Shambhuraj Desai responded with criticism of Bhujbal’s statements. Desai defended the government’s actions and questioned Bhujbal’s motives, suggesting that such disagreements should be addressed privately rather than aired publicly.

The dispute within the government extends beyond party lines, as even the BJP’s state president, Chandrashekhar Bawankule, weighed in, criticizing the Mahavikas Aghadi government’s inability to maintain the Maratha reservation that was pursued by the previous Devendra Fadnavis administration.

The ongoing disagreement among government ministers, including those from the NCP, Shiv Sena, and BJP, has raised concerns about the government’s ability to provide a unified front. Congress state president Nana Patole called for clarification on the government’s position, highlighting the lack of consensus and the absence of a caste-wise census.

The government has not yet decided on granting Kunbi certificates to the Maratha community, with a deadline set for January 2 for the committee to submit its final report. The potential repercussions of this decision are uncertain and could lead to further disputes within the cabinet.

While the public disagreements between government ministers reflect a lack of unanimity, political analysts suggest that the government is attempting to strike a balance between the Maratha and OBC communities. They argue that the coalition government’s diversity may naturally lead to differences of opinion, but the government appears to be striving to accommodate both groups.

The ongoing political posturing and power struggles may not necessarily destabilize the government, but they do reflect the complex landscape of caste-based politics in Maharashtra. As the state moves toward elections, the positions taken by leaders from different communities will play a significant role in shaping the political landscape.

In this contentious atmosphere, the role of Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in the government remains uncertain. Whether his silence in an all-party meeting sparks a larger dispute between the Shinde-Fadnavis-Pawar government regarding Maratha and OBC reservation remains to be seen.

The political dynamics at play suggest that leaders are primarily representing their communities and playing vote bank politics, rather than acting in the best interest of the ruli

ng party or government. The outcome of this political maneuvering will be closely watched, especially as Maharashtra approaches its next elections.

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