VENKATESH KESARI | 31 JULY, 2018
NEW DELHI: The ground is slipping rapidly from under the feet of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who is facing the angry Marathas without any help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah who have not a said word on the demand for reservation. Fadnavis’ effort to still the violence by announcing a possible special session of the state Assembly has come apart under pressure from ally Shiv Sena and the united Opposition who have met the Governor and the CM himself to insist that he take a decision immediately.
Fadnavis had tried to buy time by saying that the session would be held after the backward commission submitted its report. This has found no takers with the Maratha agitation entering its ninth day, with the youth immolating themselves in different parts of the state. Videos made of these acts are being spread like wildfire and are further stoking the anger, and the violence.
The BJP leadership is caught in a bind as any move to concede the demand for reservation by the Maratha will impact on key states like Gujarat, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh as well as Rajasthan which is readying for state elections. Demands from the Patidar community and its young leader Hardik Patel for a similar reservation is hanging fire, and any move to accept the Maratha proposal will ignite fires in PM Modi’s home state. The Jats were on the streets in Haryana and western UP asking for reservation, and here too the issue will light up if the Marathas in Maharashtra have their way.
Fadnavis, always seen as little more than a protege of PM Modi and Shah with a non existent base on the ground, has no real party managers to handle the situation except Narayan Rane who also does not have the same appeal. A BJP effort to pitch the Marathas against the non-Marathas in the state has also not worked till now, as the sizeable OBC community, the Dalits and the Muslims are clearly not cooperating. The prominent OBC leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal and Dhananjay Munde are with the Nationalist Congress party, and the BJP does not have a strong base in this community that is more loyal towards the Shiv Sena. Dalit leaders do not want to antagonise the Marathas and are not falling into what one of them called the “BJP trap.”
This is a serious crisis for the BJP, to the point where now the CM will not be able to prepone the Assembly elections due next year to be held along with the Lok Sabha polls. Fadnavis had in fact, said that he wanted simultaneous elections but given the current crisis, Opposition leaders said that he would not “dare” to prepone these with all communities in turmoil.
The Bhima Koregaon stir, and the agrarian distress that has led to Maharashtra’s farmers to stage sit -ins in Mumbai has kept the state government on its toes. A panicking Fadnavis rushed to meet the farmers demands, but was unable to implement his promises leading to a renewed struggle.
August will be particularly crucial as various demonstrations are planned by the affected groups, and opposition sources said that he will face considerable unrest and the anger of the people. The Shiv Sena has ensured the isolation of the BJP, by remaining in alliance but supporting the Opposition stance. In that it has emerged as the strongest critic of Fadnavis who is getting no help from the ally in dealing with the issues that threaten to submerge his government. A Maharashtra bandh is planned for August as well.