Operation Jarange-Patil: How the BJP tackled the irrepressible Maratha activist | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Operation Jarange-Patil: How the BJP tackled the irrepressible Maratha activist

Mar 13, 2024 05:26 PM IST

In the last few days, the farmer-turned-quota activist has been missing in action. Visible almost 24x7 on Marathi news channels at one point, he has been conspicuous by his absence after police action forced him to scrap his decision to march to Fadnavis’ residence in Mumbai on February 27

MUMBAI: He had become the unexpected face of the agitation for Maratha reservation. At the apogee of the struggle, when he declared a march to Mumbai in January, tens of thousands of Maratha youths rallied behind him, and village after village contributed whatever it could to make the agitation successful. And when his cavalcade reached the doorstep of the financial capital on January 25, it appeared like he would be dictating terms to the government forever.

Maratha activist Manoj Jarange-Patil during the Marataha agitation rally in Jalna district of Maharashtra, in January.
Maratha activist Manoj Jarange-Patil during the Marataha agitation rally in Jalna district of Maharashtra, in January.

But all this has changed in the last few weeks. Manoj Jarange-Patil’s fortunes took a tumble after he used abusive language against deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and even alleged that the latter had conspired to kill him. The government went tough on him, and announced the constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the violence during his first agitation, which had affected mostly Beed district.

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On Monday the home department appointed Nashik police commissioner Sandeep Karnik to head the SIT, giving him three months to investigate. On the same day, the Pune city police registered an FIR against Jarange-Patil and a few others for holding an illegal rally at Wagholi on January 23. There has been no reaction from the Maratha community to the SIT.

In the last few days, the farmer-turned-quota activist has been missing in action. Visible almost 24x7 on Marathi news channels at one point, he has been conspicuous by his absence after police action forced him to scrap his decision to march to Fadnavis’ residence in Mumbai on February 27. On the same day, he also announced the calling off of his 17-day-long hunger strike.

So, how did the BJP tame Jarange-Patil?

According to insiders in the ruling alliance, Fadnavis and other BJP leaders were peeved with CM Shinde for encouraging the activist, and moved swiftly to snap the link. “Many of us were convinced that Shinde’s colleagues were actively supporting Jarange-Patil’s agitation,” said a BJP leader. “The police even got hold of certain information in this regard. Following this, it was conveyed to Shinde in no uncertain terms that he could not encourage Jarange-Patil in order to make his own position stronger and push our party into a corner.”

The leader revealed that Jarange-Patil’s outburst against Fadnavis came in handy. “We strongly objected to it and made it clear within the alliance that nobody would support him,” he said. “Our top leaders ensured that Shinde himself made such a statement publicly.”

The party’s announcement of an SIT probe into the activist’s links and the shadow players behind the violence was another manoeuvre. With the threat of investigation looming large, many in the ruling alliance who were supporting the activist backed out.

Fadnavis’ strong support to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) against Jarange-Patil created a situation where the opposition parties too had to tone down their clamour in support of the activist. Had they supported him strongly, it would have put them at risk of losing OBC support. The existing communities in the OBC are not happy with Jarange-Patil’s demand that all Marathas who can prove their Kunbi antecedents be given Kunbi certificates for quota benefits. Kunbi, a peasant sub-caste of Marathas, falls under the OBC category.

With his supporters within the ruling alliance backing out and the Opposition giving him limited support, Jarange-Patil may have run out of steam.

His supporters, however, have denied that Jarange-Patil is lying low after the SIT announcement. They insist that the Maratha activist is busy touring districts to persuade community members to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to teach political leaders a lesson. “The idea is to field 1,000 candidates in each and every constituency in Marathwada and adjoining areas as independents,” said Maratha activist Virendra Pawar. “The community is upset with all the political parties, as it believes that no party supported it.”

Background

Jarange-Patil rose to prominence during a hunger strike at Antarwali Sarathi village in Jalna when a police contingent tried to forcibly admit him to hospital on the fourth day, September 1, 2023. A clash ensued between the police and his supporters, leading to a lathi charge and the use of teargas shells. The ‘police brutality’ made headlines and Jarange-Patil emerged as the new leader of the Maratha community.

From here the activist went from strength to strength, with politicians, the chief minister and a government delegation armed with promises flying down to Jalna to convince him to break his fast. Jarange-Patil kept handing out deadlines, periodically going back to his agitation and increasing his litany of demands.

His march to Mumbai, embarked on with thousands of Marathas on January 20, had the government in a tizzy, and CM Shinde personally went to Vashi to hand him the ceremonial glass of juice to break his fast. His demand to issue Kunbi certificates to all 57 lakh Marathas with Kunbi antecedents, and reservation to their blood relatives based on affidavits was fulfilled by handing over a draft notification to the Maratha activist.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Faisal is with the political team and covers state administration and state politics. He also covers NCP.

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