Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray.
VHP Joint General Secretary Dr Surendra
From its softening stand on Hindutva to the dropping of the Veer Swantantra epithet for Veer Savarkar, the very face of Maharastrian ideology, the anti-Muslim face of Shiv Sena has witnessed a moral depletion, as absolute power corrupts ‘absolutely’
Abhijit Mulye From Mumbai
Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray addressed a press conference at the State Assembly on March 3. Though he attempted to clear air on Muslim quota, he was evasive and tried to brush away questions over the issue.
“We haven’t made any decision regarding the Muslim quota. In fact, this issue hasn’t come up before us (as yet). Till it doesn’t come why speak of it? We will look at it when it comes up,” he told reporters on the questions pertaining to government decision on granting five percent quota to Muslims.
However, Uddhav didn’t stop at that. While aiming at those opposing the Muslim quota, Thackeray advised them, “Don’t waste your energy in raking things up. Conserve your energy for the issue when it will come up.”
He also said that the issue hasn’t come up before the party or the government as yet and hence the party hasn’t expressed its opinion over the issue. “We will look into the constitutional validity and other issues as and when the issue comes before us,” Thackeray added while summing up party’s stand.
Thackeray’s clarification came in light of Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) raised voice against the announcement that the government will soon bring in legislation for quota for Muslims in the State.
VHP Joint General Secretary Dr Surendra Jain issued a statement from Nagpur against the government’s resolve and said that the Hindu community would not tolerate any such feat.
“Policies of Muslim appeasement have been going on for past 73 years. But the riots in Muslim dominated areas haven’t stopped. Now the government under Uddhav Thackeray will have to decide whether it is with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj or with the followers of Aurangzeb. The VHP shall oppose the blatant act of Muslim appeasement in the form of religion based reservation from streets to the court,” Jain said in his statement.
This statement came as a shocker for Thackeray who had already announced that he would be visiting Ayodhya on March 7 to mark completion of 100 days by his government.
Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Nawab Malik, who is also the Minorities Affairs Minister in Thackeray cabinet, had made the announcement regarding the quota in the state legislative council on February 28 while replying to a query from Congress MLC Sharad Ranpise.
Policies of Muslim appeasement have been going on for past 73 years. Yet the riots in Muslim dominated areas haven’t stopped. Now the government under Uddhav Thackeray will have to decide whether it is with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj or with the followers of Aurangzeb. The VHP shall oppose the blatant act of Muslim appeasement in the form of religion based reservation from streets to the court
“The High Court had given its nod to give five per cent reservation to Muslims in government educational institutions. The last government did not take any action on it. So, we have announced that we will implement the High Court’s order in the form of law as soon as possible. We have announced that as per the High Court’s order we will give reservation to the Muslim community in education soon by making a law,” Malik said.
He also assured the house that the government will ensure that “appropriate action”, to grant five percent quota for Muslims, would be taken before the next academic year starts.
Senior Shiv Sena leader and Minister for Urban Development Eknath Shinde, began the balancing act immediately after Malik made the announcement. “The issue is yet to come up before the government and that no decision has been made in this regard,” Shinde said on Saturday. But he also added that his party believes in “taking ahead all the communities and hence is not averse to granting quota for any community.”
The Congress had been trying hard for reintroduction of the quota for Muslims in Maharashtra ever since the three-party Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) Government came to power in the state about three months back. The party had also tried to raise the issue during state cabinet meeting about a month ago.
Former Maharashtra Congress chief and Public Works Department minister in Uddhav Thackeray cabinet Ashok Chavan, had revealed this to journalists. While asserting that the party was serious about the issue and expressing confidence that a quota for Muslims would soon be implemented in the state, Chavan had said, “We would be pursuing the issue of Muslim quota. We would be raising it in the coordination committee meeting of party leaders and see to it that the issue would be discussed.”
The Congress-NCP Government under Prithviraj Chavan in Maharashtra, owing to its policy of minority appeasement, had granted 5% quota to Muslims along with 16% quota for Marathas just ahead of State Assembly elections in 2014. Since the decision was made hastily without proper background work, it couldn’t stand the legal scrutiny and was struck down by the Bombay High Court within months. But there was a hitch. While striking down the reservation for Marathas in both, jobs as well as education and the quota for Muslims in jobs, the court had allowed 5% quota for Muslims in education to continue. However, the quota couldn’t come into practice as it was given via an ordinance which lapsed in due course.
After the BJP came to power in Maharashtra in 2014, the government under Devendra Fadnavis took pains to form the Backward Class Commission and completed all the mandatory legal procedures for granting 16% quota for Maratha community and the bill was eventually cleared by the state assembly in November 2018. The Opposition was quick to blame the BJP for ignoring demand for Muslim quota. The elections were close and political parties like the Congress, the NCP, the SP and the AIMIM raised voices in favour of the Muslim quota in December 2018. A new voice had joined the chorus back then. It was Shiv Sena.
Shiv Sena Chief Whip in Maharashtra Assembly, Sunil Prabhu, who flanked CM Thackeray during his press conference was a minister in Fadnavis cabinet in 2018. While clarifying party’s stand on Muslim quota, Prabhu had said, “We are not against the reservation for Muslims. If any section of society is lagging behind in development and is still backward, it needs to be given reservation is the party’s stand.”
However, the State Government under Fadnavis was very clear on the issue. “The decision regarding backwardness of a community is made by the Backward Class Commission. They send recommendations to the State Government after thorough scrutiny of representations made by the community before it. If any community feels that it lags in development and needs reservation, the community should approach the commission with representations and follow the due procedure,” Fadnavis had said while clarifying his government’s stand.
A Shiv Sena leader, on condition of anonymity, said that the decision on Muslim quota is being made in line with the Common Minimum Program (CMP) agreed by all the three parties—the Congress, the NCP and the Shiv Sena—who form the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi Government in the State.
“The CMP states—the government shall adopt various schemes to eliminate the social, educational and economic backwardness of the minority community and implement Constitutional safeguards for its security and welfare in letter and spirit—We are acting on the written words. We are also committed to resolve pending issues of various communities, including Muslims. We had promised that in our manifesto,” the leader said while justifying the Shiv Sena’s stand.
With all this flip-flop it is clear that the Shiv Sena has fallen prey to the pressure tactics played by its new allies and softening its stand on Hindutva.
“It appears that the party is testing the waters before making final decision over the issue,” said a disgruntled Shiv Sena leader who was sidelined for opposing the idea of going along with the NCP and the Congress.
“Common Shiv Sainik won’t be able to bear such decisions going against their faith for a long time. In the party’s bastions like Konkan we are pitched against Muslim and it would be very difficult for grassroot workers to hail those against the party stands. The party will have to pay a heavy price if it allows to continue such appeasement tactics,” the leader said on condition of anonymity.
The Shiv Sena leader also accused the party leadership of softening its stand on Hindutva. “Uddhavji had already made it clear that the party’s Hindutva is not about protection of cows. But now the party is also planning to scrap the Govardhan Govansh Seva Kendra scheme floated by Fadnavis government which prevented the farmers from selling off their cattle to butchers and boosted the protection and conservation of cow progeny,” grumbled the Shiv Sena leader.
“Savarkar had been Shiv Sena’s icon and hence one may discount the party on this as following the Savarkar’s path on cow protection. But the party has also slowly started disowning Savarkar. This was seen when the BJP tried to bring in a resolution in honour of Savarkar in the state assembly in the last week of February. Shiv Sena not only scuttled the efforts, but in the editorial of party mouthpiece Saamana Savarkar was mentioned just as “Veer” instead of “Swantrya Veer” the adjective that the paper generally uses for Savarkar,” pointed out the Sena leader.
Pragmatic workers from Muslim community too are against the decision to grant religion-based quota. Shamsuddin Tamboli of the Muslim Satyashodhak Samaj in Pune pointed out that the demand for Muslim quota started growing only after the Sachar Committee report revealed the grim situation of the backwardness of the community but its implementation needs to be done carefully.
“We are positive on quota for Muslims. But we want it only for some particular castes among the Muslims that are backward than the backwards. Many casts among Muslims are covered under the OBC reservation. But, there too is vast difference in socio-economic status between the Hindu and Muslim members from same casts. Hence, reservation should be specific to certain casts among Muslims who need it the most. We had filed a petition in this regard in Bombay High Court in 2014 after which the court allowed the quota in education,” Tamboli said.
Pradeep Apte, a professor of political science from Pune, said that proponents of Muslim quota many a times conveniently forget that under the OBC quota benefit of reservation is available to almost the entire Muslim population except the creamy layer and there is a danger that creamy layer gobbling all benefits of quota if it is not specified for a certain weaker communities.
“Our government had done much more than what the quota provided. Students from the minority communities were getting 50% subsidy on fees for all courses. We gave reservation to the Muslim sub-caste of khaatik (butchers). More budgetary allocation was made for minorities. Everything permitted within Constitutional framework was done for minorities though we do not differentiate between majority and minority,” Fadnavis said while highlighting what the current state government is offering in terms of reservation is much less than what his government had ensured for the needy sections.