Open fight for Maharashtra’s 9 reserved LS seats

Mumbai, April 17 (IANS) The contest seems wide open for the nine reserved Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra that are currently held by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine.

Of the 23 assembly segments under these nine constituencies, 12 are with the BJP and one with ally Shiv Sena, 8 with the Congress and on/e each with the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi and CPI-M.

Sprawling across the state’s scheduled castes/scheduled tribes belts, the SC seats are Amravati, Ramtek, Shirdi, Latur and Solapur, while the ST constituencies are Nandurbar, Dindori, Palghar and Gadchiroli-Chimur.

The geographic distances nothwithstanding, the people in these constituencies suffer from near-identical socio-economic problems, top experts said.

“The SC/ST people are deprived of the promised recruitment in government services and education sector, promotions as entitled under the reserved categories and security. Funds have not been allocated for education and the money intended for students has been diverted to other purposes in the past five years,” (Dr.) Nitin Raut of the Congress party’s SC/ST Wing, told IANS.

He claimed that under the Dadasaheb Swabhiman Yojana introduced by former Congress Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, the state government was expected to buy land and allot it for agriculture purposes to poor, landless SC/ST people, but that scheme is in cold storage under the BJP government.

Moreover, the economically weaker sections of SCs/STs were entitled to a certain grant for housing purposes which has not been given to them, Raut said.

Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vijay Bhai Girkar disagreed, saying that e government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pursued ‘all-inclusive’ policies, most of which have benefitted the SC/ST even in Maharashtra.

“The schemes like Ujala, housing health cards and health insurance have largely benefited the SC/STs… The kind of work that the NDA has done since 2014 has never been done before 2014,” Girkar – who is Convenor, State Committee on SC-ST-OBC-VJNT, told IANS.

The PM has pursued all-inclusive policies, most of which have benefitted the SC/STs, like ujala, housing, health cards, insurance, etc, which never was done before 2014. The BJP-Sena govt has done immense work for the SC/ST people, plus minorities.

Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) Vice President Vijay More had a different take on htis, said that there is a serious dearth of “qualitative education” in the SC/ST population areas, where mainly Ashram Schools are functioning.

“They use outdated methods not compatible with the modern era. The education standards are below par with the rest of schools in the state and hence the students who pass out are not properly equipped to enter the job market,” More told IANS.

Referring to insufficient budgetary allocation, he said that the VBA plans to hike the expenditure from around 3.5 percent to at least 10 percent and implement the Delhi Government model of education in which some public and private schools are on par.

All India Kisan Sabha President Ashok Dhavale sais that the biggest concern in the ST constituencies is implementation of The Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, commonly known as the Forest Rights Act.

Demanding implementation of the act, around 50,000 tribals and farmers had taken out a seven-day, 200-km, Long March from Nashik to Mumbai in March 2018 that rattled the ruling dispensation.

“However, despite the assurances made by the government, the issues concerning farmers, the tribals, the deprived sections of society and the agrarian crises in the state which will decide the election outcome,” Dhavale pointed out.

The trio also listed issues of unemployment among the SC/ST youth, lack of security, etc, as the parliamentary elections progress, promising tough times for the BJP-Sena combine and the Congress-NCP front with the entry of the VBA comprising Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) and Owaisi brothers’ All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).

Among the SC seats, Amravati has been continuously won by Shiv Sena since 1996, except for one term – 1998-1999 – when it was bagged by Republican Party of India(G). The Sena’s Anandrao Adsul is the sitting MP here.

The seat has two reserved assembly components – Daryapur (SC) and Melghat (ST) – which are both currently held by the BJP legislators.

Ramtek was with the Shiv Sena from 1999-2009. Mukul Wasnik of the Congress wrested it in 2009 but lost to the Sena’s Krupal Tumane in the 2014 Modi wave. Its sole reserved assembly seat – Umred (SC) – is held by the BJP

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