Is Devendra Fadnavis likely to lose his chief ministerial chair due to growing unrest among politically powerful Maratha community in Maharashtra?
Fadnavis took everyone by surprise on Sunday when he said that he did not care whether or not he remained in chief ministerial chair. "I am not concerned whether I am chief minister or not, but as long as I am there, I will continue to work for social transformation," said Fadnavis at a programme in Navi Mumbai.
Fadnavis asserted that Maratha community must get reservation and his government was committed for the same.
Maharashtra has been witnessing massive rallies and protests by the community. The most recent one was held on Saturday in Pune and saw a participation of close to a million Marathas. Going by the comments of Fadnavis, it appears that the CM has perceived these demonstrations as a threat to his chair.
Marathas have been demanding reservation for the community and amendments to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act which protects backward classes from atrocities by upper caste Hindus. Marathas have been ruling elite in Maharashtra and comprise close to 35 per cent of state's population. The community has been taking out silent rallies all across the state after a Maratha girl was raped allegedly by dalits at Kopardi in Ahmednagar district.
The rallies are being organised under the banner of Maratha Kranti Morcha. The organisers have steadfastly refused support from any of the political parties. Elected representatives who participated in these rallies have not been allowed anywhere near the dais. Each of these rallies is addressed by women members of the community and they end after a group of women submits a memorandum to the collector of the district.
Maratha community has, by and large, supported Congress and the NCP in Maharashtra. The BJP has, in recent times, made inroads into the community, but is still seen as party of Brahmins and Baniyas. That is why questions are being raised in one section of the party on whether Fadnavis, a Brahmin, will be able to tackle the issue.
Fadnavis, in a recent interview to a TV channel, said that the issues the Maratha community faces were genuine and their concerns and grievances were real.
There has been talk about a possible successor to Fadnavis being from Maratha community.
Chandrakant Patil, senior BJP minister from Kolhapur district, has now emerged as a front runner as he is very close to BJP president Amit Shah. Another name being discussed is that of BJP state president Raosaheb Danve Patil who was a minister in the Modi cabinet in the initial months of the government.
Did Fadnavis' statement at Navi Mumbai arise from a realisation that the ground under his feet is shifting? Fadnavis also urged the organisers of Maratha rallies to come forward for discussion. The government was fully with Maratha community but a decision about their demands could not not be announced unilaterally, he said. The chief minister also said that his government would make sure that Kopardi rape accused would be hanged to death.