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Sharp Maratha-OBC Vertical Split May Put BJP On The Backfoot In The Upcoming Assembly Elections

Even as all political parties in Maharashtra gear up for the forthcoming assembly polls scheduled around October, a sharp split between the Marathas and the Other Backward Class (OBC) community threatens to distort the political atmosphere of Maharashtra. Bandhs, highway blockages, stone throwings, tyre burnings fuelled by vitriolic statements from new leaders emerging from hunger strike agitations have become the order of the day. The consolidation of the Maratha vote bank which began with the successful agitation by Manoj Jarange Patil and subsequently led to the defeat of leading OBC leaders in the recent Lok Sabha, has sparked a sharp reaction from the OBC community which is feeling threatened. The OBC community views the consolidation of Maratha vote bank as an attempt to gnaw into their reservations and political strength. The OBC leadership across many political parties is also consolidating itself with leaders like Pankaja Munde from the BJP, Dhananjay Munde and Chhagan Bhujbal from the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP with support offered by Vijay Waddetiwar, leader of opposition in assembly from the Congress and even Prakash Ambedkar from the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) finding a common cause. The BJP, which suffered the most due to the Maratha consolidation in the LS elections, has now thrown in its weight behind the OBC plank, mulling Rajya Sabha berth to Pankaja Munde, reclaiming Eknath Khadse and even offering encouraging signals to Chhagan Bhujbal. The BJP is now on a sticky wicket as it struggles to do a balancing act to not antagonise the Maratha vote bank while retaining support of the OBC.