Mumbai: The Maharashtra Legislature on Thursday unanimously passed a Bill granting 16 per cent reservations to the politically influential Maratha community demanding quotas in education and jobs amidst slogans of "Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai".
The Action Taken Report tabled in the legislature earlier by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the government proposed to give 16 per cent reservations to the Marathas under a new Social and Economically Backward Class (SEBC) category.
The Bill was passed unanimously without any discussion, marking a major political achievement in an election year.
Fadnavis said that the relevant formalities for implementing the quotas would be completed before the model code of conduct for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections was enforced.
However, the report on quotas for the Dhangar community was yet to be completed for which a sub-committee has been appointed and its ATR would be tabled in the legislature soon, he added.
Top leaders of Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and other political parties greeted the development terming it as "a historic day for the Marathas" who comprise nearly 30 per cent of the state's population.
Maratha leaders and activists who have been holding protests at the Azad Maidan welcomed the passage of the Bill and raised slogans of Shivaji and "Jai Marathas" as they sang and danced and also distributed sweets.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Leader of Opposition in the Council Dhananjay Munde welcomed the developments terming them as "a triumph for the Maratha community".
"The decision of the former Congress government has been again approved by the state legislature... It's a huge victory for the Marathas who took out 58 peaceful processions in the state, the sacrifices of 40 people and the continuous efforts of the opposition parties for achieving this," Vikhe-Patil said.
Since the Maratha reservations come under a new SEBC category, they will not affect the existing quotas for Scheduled Castes, Schedules Tribes and Other Backward Classes (SC/ST/OBCs).
The State Backward Classes Commission (SBCC) had submitted its report to the state government on November 15, recommending 16 per cent quotas for Marathas under the SEBC category, without disturbing other existing quotas.
The ATR described the Marathas comprise a socially and economically backward class who are without adequate reservations in education and government jobs.
Accordingly, they are entitled to the quota benefits enshrined in the Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution and the government could initiate suitable measures to address the issues.
The previous Congress-NCP regime had also made a similar 16 per cent quota proposal but it was stayed by the Bombay High Court.
The Marathas have been organising massive silent protests all over the state for nearly two years, including agitations in July-August which had turned violent.