The disclosure by Chhagan Bhujbal that he resigned as a minister last November has put a focus on the Maratha quota tightrope the Eknath Shinde-led government is walking amid restlessness in OBCs, with Shiv Sena (UBT) claiming Bhujbal and BJP are hand in glove.
Hours after the dramatic announcement was made by Mr Bhujbal, who belongs to the Ajit Pawar faction of NCP, at a public rally on Saturday, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said his resignation has not been accepted.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde will be able to clarify, Mr Fadnavis told reporters.
Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut dubbed Mr Bhujbal’s disclosure about his resignation a ”hogwash”.
The Shiv Sena led by Shinde, BJP, and the NCP (Ajit Pawar faction) are the constituents of the Mahayuti government.
Mr Bhujbal claims he resigned from the Cabinet last year but he attended subsequent meetings of the council of ministers, Mr Raut told reporters on Sunday.
“It is said that Devendra Fadnavis is behind Bhujbal’s outbursts against the handling of the Maratha quota agitation led by (activist) Manoj Jarange. Both are hand in glove. I will resign but you will not accept it or you resign and we will not accept it,” Mr Raut claimed.
Mr Bhujbal’s bete noire and the face of Maratha protests, Manoj Jarange, on Sunday, said the OBC leader was trying to “damage” Deputy CMs Fadnavis (BJP) and Ajit Pawar (NCP) with his statements about the Maratha reservation.
Mr Bhujbal has accused the state government of facilitating “backdoor entry” of the Maratha community into the OBC quota by pandering to the demands made by Jarange.
He has sharpened his attack against the government after it issued a draft notification accepting Jarange’s demand that blood relatives of Marathas with Kunbi (OBC sub-caste) records, will be given the Kunbi certificates.
Addressing a rally of OBCs in Ahmednagar on Saturday, Mr Bhujbal referred to the demands being raised by some leaders from the state government and the Opposition for sacking him as a minister in view of his public outbursts against the handling of the Maratha reservation issue.
“I want to tell leaders from the opposition, government, and my party that ahead of the OBC Elgar rally held in Ambad on November 17, I resigned from the cabinet on November 16 and then went to attend that event.
“There is no need for sacking. I have tendered my resignation. I will fight for the OBCs till the end,” Mr Bhujbal added.
He also said he kept quiet for more than two months because the chief minister and the Deputy CM asked him not to speak about the resignation.
Mr Bhujbal reiterated that he was not opposed to Marathas getting the reservation but is against sharing the existing quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Talking to reporters, Mr Fadnavis said, “The chief minister will be able to clarify, but I can only say as of now that Bhujbal’s resignation has not been accepted by the chief minister or me.”
Meanwhile, Sanjay Raut sought to know who has the authority to accept Bhujbal’s resignation – Chief Minister Eknath Shinde or Deputy CM Fadnavis.
It has been a precedent that those who oppose the chief minister or the government have no right to be a part of it, he claimed.
“We are of the view that all communities should get their rights but not at the cost of encroaching on others’ rights,” Raut said, adding that even Mr Bhujbal says the same.
Speaking to reporters at Antarwali Sarati village in Jalna district, Jarange rubbished Bhujbal’s allegations that fake and overwritten records were being used to get the reservation for the Maratha community.
“He (Bhujbal) doesn’t understand anything. There is a law, a government, a committee and scholars working on this issue, but Bhujbal doubts his own government. He is trying to damage Deputy Chief Ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar,” the activist said.
He further claimed that it has become Mr Bhujbal’s business to damage every party he joins.
“If he (Bhujbal) wants to resign, he should do it, but should not talk against Maratha reservation,” Jarange added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)