‘Maratha quota issue can’t be solved in 40 days’

‘If Marathas have to be given reservations, then it should be with the confines of the Constitution.’
‘Twice, the reservations awarded by the Maharashtra government were stayed by the Supreme Court.’
‘It is now the government’s duty to find a way out of this impasse without hurting the interests of any sections of the Maharashtrian people.’

Nationalist Congress Party MLA from Majalgaon in Beed district Prakash Solanke, owing allegiance to Ajit Pawar, bore the brunt of the Maratha agitators who forcibly entered his home, ransacked and burned it even as a group of policemen stood mute witnesses to the arson, being far outnumbered by the mob.

The mob was apparently angry after a recorded conversation between Solanke and one of his constituents went viral where he can be allegedly heard calling Manoj Jarange Patil’s 40-day ultimatum given to the state government for granting OBC status to the Marathas as ‘being child’s play’.

Jarange Patil, who began his hunger strike on August 29, shot into prominence when violence broke out between the quota agitators and local police when they tried to forcibly admit him to a hospital in Beed citing his deteriorating health condition on September 1.

Jarange Patil continued his hunger strike at Antarwali Sarati village in Jalna’s Ambad taluka till September 14 even as he gave an ultimatum of one month to the Eknath Shinde-Devendta Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar government to at least accept Marathas of Marathwada as Kunbis (an OBC caste that is eligible for quota in government jobs and colleges).

On October 25, Jarange Patil relaunched his agitation at the same village, even as agitators indulged in violence across different parts of the state, including at Majalgaon where Solanke’s home was torched on October 31.

Solanke spoke to Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com about what lies ahead for the agitators, their demand for inclusion into the OBC fold and how he stood helplessly for two hours seeing agitators burn his home.

‘I stood helplessly as the mob torched my home for two hours’

I am thankful to god that when the mob attacked my house my family was not home. Though that gave me some relief, mentally, I was totally drained because my home was torched in front of my eyes. I saw my house being torched by the rioters for two hours; I stood helplessly.

The mob was mixed; some of them were identifiable, they were from the village while outsiders too were part of that angry mob. It was a huge mob.

As soon as they entered my premises they started throwing stones from all directions. Being completely outnumbered by the people in the mob the small posse of policemen who were guarding my premises did not attempt to stop the mob from burning my home.

Thankfully, I managed to safely evacuate my home with the help of local workers who were present at my house when the mob attacked it.

I did not file any complaint against anybody, but the cops who were present when my house was being burned took suo motu cognisance of the crime and filed a complaint against the rioters.

‘My political opponents stage-managed the attack’

The Maratha people are staging their fight for reservations very peacefully, but some of my political opponents were involved in this attack on my home. They instigated the mob to indulge in arson and rioting.

In the audio clip that has gone viral, which gave a handle to my opponents to instigate the angry agitators against me, I have not said anything against Manoj Jarange Patil. While speaking on the phone I told the person with whom I was having this conversation to not record the call, yet he recorded the call with an intention to hurt me politically.

I can’t reveal the name of the person with whom I was having this talk, but I can say that he is not my political opponent. I talk on the phone to almost hundred people from my constituency every single day. That is my routine. I receive every call that I get and try solving people’s problems on the phone.

People call me for lack of electricity and drinking water in their areas, road issues, etc, and they also talk about political issues like reservation for Marathas. They intentionally record such conversations and then misuse the recording to tarnish my image.

‘The Maratha quota issue can’t be solved in 40 days’

If you hear the entire clip (that has gone viral and which instigated the attack on Solanke’s house) you will know that I did not utter a single word against Manoj Jarange Patil.

I just said that how can the issue of reservations for Maratha be solved in 40 days (Jarange Patil had given an ultimatum to the state government to start issuing Kunbi certificates to eligible people within 40 days when he had suspended his hunger strike — started on August 9 — on September 14 , which he relaunched on Oct 25)?

This is not an issue anybody could solve in 40-50 days. If Marathas have to be given reservations, then it should be with the confines of the Constitution.

Twice the reservations awarded by the Maharashtra government were stayed by the Supreme Court. So, it is now the government’s duty to find a way out of this impasse without hurting interests of any sections of Maharashtrian people.

‘Resignations will not solve the issue’

The decision taken by the state government twice could not pass the legal and Constitutional scrutiny. It is now the government’s responsibility to ensure the reservations for the Marathas that will stand Constitutional and legal scrutiny.

While a few of my fellow MLAs and MPs have tried to pressurise the government by resigning in protest against the delay in providing relief to the Marathas, I don’t see this as a solution to the problem; resignations will not help Marathas get reservations in government jobs and colleges.

It is the job of every elected representative to pressurise the government and hold it accountable by staging protests and demonstrations, or through discussions and debates.

‘The situation has become provocative’

After my home was torched by the mob the chief minister and the two deputy chief ministers called me to ask about my well-being. I also pleaded with them to ensure how at the earliest the state can fulfill the demand for Maratha reservations. Mi tyanna sangitla ki paristhiti ek dum prakshobhak jhali aahe (I told them that the situation has become provocative).

It is difficult to say today if the anger of the Marathas will harm the political prospects of the BJP and Shiv Sena in the next year’s assembly election. One cannot predict on what issues the people of Maharashtra will vote in 2024.

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