As chief minister, Sharad Pawar played a big role in the renaming of the Marathwada University as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University in 1994, endearing himself to the Dalit community. However, he stunned everyone when he reportedly stated that the Maratha demand for scrapping of the SC and the ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 'could not be ignored'.
Pawar's comment comes as Marathas are holding huge rallies against the Act amid allegations that Dalits are using it to 'settle petty scores'. Pawar's statement has put the BJP is in a tight spot as it can't simply reject the demand of the Marathas who are outraged over the Karjat gangrape in which a minor from the community was allegedly raped and brutally killed by members of the Dalit community in July this year.
Political Analyst Prakash Bal Joshi feels that Pawar has played a clever move to 'checkmate the BJP.' " The Dalits are already angry with the BJP over the attack in Una and other incidents, and by backing the Maratha demand, Pawar's plan could be to consolidate the Maratha and the other OBCs like the Dangars and the Malis,"said Joshi.
oshi feels the BJP is in a Catch-22 situation as ignoring the Maratha demand could alienate the community while acceding to their request would push the Dalits away. However, another analyst Pratap Asbe doesn't believe that the NCP is following the strategy to embarrass the BJP. "If the NCP does this strategy then it risks being bracketed with the BJP, as the latter has been perceived to be a pro-upper caste party. Why would the NCP want to be identified with the BJP that would be suicidal," said Asbe.