Senior minister in Eknath Shinde’s Cabinet, Chhagan Bhujbal, engaged in a verbal confrontation with Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil, expressing his opposition to the issuance of Kunbi (OBC) caste certificates to all Marathas. This disagreement highlights the complex issue of caste-based reservations in the state of Maharashtra.
In a recent audio clip that went viral, Chhagan Bhujbal, a prominent leader from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), was heard saying, “It’s a do or die situation for us [OBCs], and we must raise our voice.” Bhujbal voiced his determination to fight for the rights of smaller caste groups within the OBC community.
In response, Manoj Jarange-Patil, the Maratha quota activist, asserted, “Ladenge aur jeetenge” (Fight and win), underlining the resolve of the Maratha community to secure reservations.
The ongoing dispute centers on Jarange-Patil’s demand for Kunbi (OBC) caste certificates to be issued to all Marathas, a proposition that has generated unrest among OBC communities. Jarange-Patil had also previously targeted Bhujbal during his nine-day fast for the cause.
Chhagan Bhujbal clarified his position at a press conference in Beed, stating, “I’m not opposed to Maratha reservation, but it should be done within the constitutional limits.” He reasserted his call for a caste census.
Last week, in response to Jarange-Patil’s demand, the state government expanded the scope of the Justice Shinde committee to establish procedures for granting Kunbi certificates to all Marathas. Bhujbal’s response is seen as a reaction from within the OBC community.
Bhujbal further explained, “Reservation is not a poverty alleviation program. It is meant to create a level playing field. The OBC community fought for 70 years to obtain reservation, yet they remain underprivileged. We won’t oppose reservation for the Maratha community, but we want separate reservation for them.”
The NCP veteran, who represents 375 small OBC castes, emphasized the need for unity among various castes such as Mali, Koli, Dhangar, Vanjari, Teli, Tamboli, and Sali. Bhujbal also announced an OBC rally in Ambad, Jalna district, on November 17, signifying the community’s collective stand on the issue of reservations. The dispute highlights the intricate challenges and diversity within the reservation system in Maharashtra.