The BJP on Wednesday blamed the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government for "failing" to convince the Supreme Court over the issue of reservation for the Maratha community in jobs and education.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the Maharashtra law granting quota to Marathas in admissions and government jobs, terming it as "unconstitutional", and held there were no exceptional circumstances to breach the 50 per cent reservation cap set by the 1992 Mandal verdict.
Expressing disappointment over the SC's decision, former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis claimed there was "lack of co-ordination" on part of the state government while making its submissions before the apex court.
“Two or three times, the government's lawyers had to say before the court that they did not receive certain information and instructions, which led to adjournment of the case hearings,” he told reporters in Nagpur.
Notably, the Socially and Economically Backward Class (SEBC) Act 2018 of Maharashtra was enacted by the previous Fadnavis-led government to grant reservation to people of the Maratha community in the state in jobs and admissions.
Fadnavis also said the present state government could not convince the court that the MC Gaikwad commission report, which was the basis for the Maratha quota, "was not one-sided and that views of all sides was included in it".
He said the Gaikwad commission report had explained in its report why reservation above 50 per cent should be given.
Fadnavis also said many other states have exceeded the reservation cap of 50 per cent.
"There are many things about which we could have convinced the court but the state government focused on some other aspects," the leader of opposition in the state Assembly said.
The SC in its order on Wednesday also said that appointments made in government jobs and admissions in post graduate courts after the Bombay High Court verdict of 2019 upholding Maratha quota and September 9, 2020 order of the top court staying the implementation of quota will not be affected.
"This is one relief for us," Fadnavis said.
He appealed to the state government to form a committee of senior legal experts to study the SC's decision and find a way out to give justice to the Maratha community.
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil demanded that the state government call an all-party meeting and a special session of the Assembly to discuss the issue.
"It is a complete failure of the state government. It failed to convince the SC on why it was important to breach the 50 per cent ceiling on quota under extraordinary circumstances in the state with regard to the Maratha community," Patil told reporters in Pune.
He said the previous Fadnavis-led state government had formed the Backward Class Commission which recommended to consider the Maratha community as backward on three fronts - social, economic, and educational.
The Fadnavis government then enacted the law giving reservation to the Maratha community in jobs and education, which was later challenged in the Bombay High Court.
"The Fadnavis government had successfully convinced the HC that Marathas account for 32 per cent of the state's population and how it was an extraordinary situation in the state," he said.
But, the present Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra (comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) has "completely failed the Maratha community", Patil claimed.
"Youth from the Maratha community should speak up on the issue and mount pressure on the state government,” the BJP leader said.
He demanded that the state government call an all-party meeting over the issue.
"In fact, they should call a special Assembly session on the issue of Maratha quota and the COVID-19 situation in the state," he said.
Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Council Pravin Darekar also said the decision has come as a "complete disappointment" for the Maratha community.
"The law, cleared by both Houses of the state Legislature and upheld by the Bombay High Court, was struck down only because of this state government,” he said.
Vinod Patil, one of the petitioners seeking reservation for Marathas, termed the decision as "unfortunate".
"We will decide our next move after going through the order in detail," he said.
After the SC's order, members of some Maratha organisations staged a protest by wearing black ribbons on their arms in Pune.
"It was necessary on part of the Maharashtra government to explain the state's stand in the court, but it did not happen," one of the protesters said.
Another protester termed it as a "black day" for the Marathas, saying youth from the community were hopeful of a decision in their favour.