The renewed agitation by the Marathas in Maharashtra for reservation is a textbook study of how consensus across the political spectrum does not guarantee reasonable policy. No major political party in the state seems to have any objection to giving reservation to the Marathas and yet a coherent policy appears elusive if not impossible. This is mainly because of the tendency to take recourse to consensus both as avoidance and as competitive populism.
But beyond avoidance, populism and electoral calculations, the stand of all political players appears to be informed by a new logic of reservation that might have deeper implications for both the politics of social justice and our understanding of the constitutional project of ensuring fair (equal) opportunity. This new logic, as can be inferred from “quota” agitations of the recent past, has five components.
A 35-year-old man allegedly committed suicide in Aurangabad on Monday over the Maratha quota demand. Violent protests also erupted in Chakan, 40 kilometres from Pune, in which at least 90 vehicles were damaged and traffic was disrupted on the Pune-Nashik highway. Authorities imposed Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code in the region prohibiting the assembly of more than four people in an area after the violence began.
The demand for Maratha reservation dates back to the 1980s. Here is a timeline of more recent events.
2008-09: Former CMs – Sharad Pawar, Vilasrao Deshmukh lends support to the demand.
2009-14: Political parties, organisations come out in support of the demand for reservation to the Marathas.
25 June 2014: The Congress-NCP Democratic Front government, then headed by Prithviraj Chavan, approves a proposal to reserve 16% of government jobs and seats in educational institutions for Marathas and 5% for Muslims.
31 October 2014: Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in CM of Maharashtra of BJP government with the indirect support of NCP.
— रामभाऊ देसाई 303_official Account (@RamDesai3s468) July 24, 2018
5 December 2014: Shiv Sena joins the BJP government, offers stability
14 November 2014: Bombay High Court stays the decision of the previous Democratic Front government to provide 16 per cent reservations to Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions.
15 November 2014: BJP-Sena government decides to move Supreme Court
18 December 2014: Supreme Court refuses to vacate the Bombay High Court’s interim order staying reservation for Maratha community in public employment in Maharashtra.
6 January 2015: Government decides to tender additional information in the Bombay High Court for supporting reservations to Marathas.
13 July 2016: Rape and murder of a Maratha girl at Kopardi in Ahmednagar district that fuels the demand of rights of the community
9 August, 2016: First Maratha Kranti Morcha held in Aurangabad
Marathas Launch 'Jail Bharo Andolan' to Push Reservation Demands pic.twitter.com/me3o7WaMFS
— vijay kumar nayak (@vijaykumarnyk) August 1, 2018
6 November 2016: Maratha bike rally held in Mumbai.
20 November 2016: Maratha morcha held in New Delhi.
5 December 2016: Maharashtra government files an affidavit to justify the reservation for Marathas as legal and that it did not violate constitutional provisions.
14 December 2016: Maratha morcha held in Nagpur when the winter session of Maharashtra legislature was in progress.
9 August, 2017: Massive Maratha morcha held in Mumbai.
November, 2017: All accused in Kopardi case sentenced to death by a Sessions Court in Ahmednagar.
July, 2018: Maratha reservations issue rocks the monsoon session of Maharashtra legislature in Nagpur.
17 July, 2018: Maratha associations meet in Pandharpur, decides not to allow CM Devendra Fadnavis to hold puja of Lord Vitthal-Rukmini on ashadi ekadashi on 23 July.
22 July, 2018: CM cancels a trip to Pandharpur, says his govt supports demand for reservation to Maratha but the ball in the court.
23 July, 2018: Youth jumps into Godavari river in Aurangabad to demand reservation to Maratha community.
Reservation is the only card Shiv Sena can play.1st Marathas,now roping in AIMIM for same.Nothing https://t.co/m4BgQQ3jqD talks about infrastructure or other development for Maharashtra. Reservat'n will take care of everything. Right?#WakeUpIndia https://t.co/nbzCLh5Y6O
— 𝒱𝒶𝓃𝒾𝓉𝒶 🇮🇳 (@vanitajain21) August 1, 2018