We urged him to request Centre to raise 50% cap, says Sambhaji Chhatrapati
Expressing satisfaction that President Ram Nath Kovind had granted a “patient hearing” on the Maratha quota issue, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and Kolhapur royal Sambhaji Chhatrapati, who led a delegation of Maharashtra MPs on Thursday to meet the President, said they had urged Mr. Kovind to request the Centre to lift the cap on the 50% reservation limit.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting in New Delhi, Mr. Sambhajiraje — a direct descendant of the Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji and the beloved social reformer Rajashri Shahu Maharaj — said as the Supreme Court, while scrapping the Maratha quota law in May had upheld the 1992 Indra Sawhney verdict, which meant that the 50% reservation limit in a State remained.
“The 1992 verdict clearly says you can’t change this 50% limit except in extraordinary conditions and when that extraordinary situation is ‘far, flung and remote’. So, our delegation requested the President if Parliament could be consulted over the possibility of working a way around this line [far, flung and remote] or changing it so as to enable the Maratha community to fulfil this clause. We suggested that if this is not possible, then to urge the Central government to increase 50% cap which would make it possible for the State government to give reservation,” said Mr. Sambhajiraje.
The delegation consisted of MPs from the four major parties in the State and included Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar (BJP), Vandana Chavan (NCP), Vinayak Raut (Shiv Sena) and MLA Sangram Thopate (Congress), who filled in for party Chandrapur MP Suresh Dhanorkar, who could not attend as he was unwell.
“We explained to the President in detail all aspects of the Maratha reservation issue and he patiently heard us out. He even said Rajashri Shahu [the visionary princely ruler of then Kolhapur State], who was the first to include the Maratha community under the OBC category in 1902, was the ‘father’ of the reservation process. After hearing us, the President requested for some time to study the issue and said he would let us know the next course of action,” said Mr. Sambhajiraje, thanking Mr. Kovind for his attention to the issue.
He said while the SC ruling of May 5 suggested that the Marthas were a ‘forward’ or “dominating class”, the need of the hour was now for the State government to prove the Maratha community was indeed socially backward and that it fell under the “Socially and Economically Backward Classes’ (SEBC)” category.
Mr. Sambhaji, who has been galvanising the community efforts in the wake of the Supreme Court’s repeal of the Maratha quota law, said the State government must quickly create a Backward Classes Commission (under 338B of the Constitution), re-collect pertinent data on the Maratha community and rectify the loopholes of the erstwhile Gaikwad Commission’s study (to ascertain the community’s backwardness).
Last month, the Centre introduced the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill which was passed by both Houses of Parliament. The Bill seeks to restore the power of the State governments to identify and specify SEBCs.
While the Amendment was thought to have opened up chances of the Maratha community securing reservation, the tripartite “Maha Vikas Aghadi” government (comprising the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress) has argued that unless the BJP-led Central government lifted the cap on 50% reservation, the Amendment was not much of good.
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