Sambhaji Raje to hold rally in Kolhapur on June 16
Signalling an intensification in the Maratha quota agitation, BJP MP Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji, announced that the first Maratha morcha (rally) would commence from Kolhapur district on June 16.
The Rajya Sabha member, who had recently been on a State-wide tour to canvass support for the Maratha reservation issue after the Supreme Court last month scrapped the quota law, said if the community’s demands were not met through the agitation, he would lead also a ‘long march’ from Mumbai to Pune.
“We have shown restraint for too long. While we have no wish to hold the public hostage, reservation is the Maratha community’s right. I appeal to leaders of all political parties to join in the agitation. If our demands not met through agitations, then I will lead a long march from Mumbai to Pune,” he said at the Raigad Fort on occasion of the 348th coronation ceremony of Shivaji.
Earlier, Mr. Raje performed rituals and paid tributes to the Maratha warrior king. While lakhs of Shivbhakts (fervent admirers of Shivaji) usually congregate at the fort for the occasion, the ongoing pandemic curbs meant only a handful of guests were present.
His announcement was greeted with approval from Maratha outfits like the ‘Sakal Maratha Samaj’ and the ‘Chhava Sanghatana.’
“We are warning the State government that the patience of the community is at an end… the State government has prevented lakhs of Shivbhakts from gathering at Raigad. However, let it be known, that if Sambhaji Raje so wishes, it will not take us long to surround the Mantralaya in Mumbai. We will not let MPs and Ministers move around unless they seriously begin to address the issues of the community,” said Karan Gaykar of the Chhava Sanghatana.
Likewise, Ramesh Kere Patil of the Sakal Maratha Samaj accused both the Uddhav Thackeray-led State government and the BJP-led Centre of not doing enough to ensure justice for the community.
Responding to Mr. Raje’s announcement, another descendent of erstwhile royals Udayanraje Bhosale said: “He has made his point clear… it pains me that because of this thorny reservation issue, a social divide [between Maratha and backward communities] today exists between different communities who were hitherto co-existing peacefully.”
Welcoming Mr Raje’s agitation, Shiv Sangram chief Vinayak Mete, a BJP ally, said the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government had thus far proven utterly ineffectual in reassuring or speedily addressing the anxieties of the Maratha community after the Supreme Court’s decision.
On Saturday, Mr. Mete led a pro-quota protest in Beed despite the administration prohibiting it.
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