Under the relentless blaze of the sun, young farmer Arjun Katle and his colleague battle the parched earth of his fields, his brow furrowed with determination and concern. Each furrow he carves with his plow is a testament to his hope that the elusive monsoon will keep its unspoken promise this year and breathe life into the barren landscape. Around him, the land stretches out, thirsty and waiting.

As he pauses to wipe the relentless sweat from his brow, Arjun’s thoughts turn to the fickleness of the monsoon—its arrival as unpredictable as the promises made by politicians. “The monsoon, though capricious, at least graces us with its presence eventually,” he muses aloud, the sharp edge of cynicism in his voice cutting through the heavy air. “Politicians, on the other hand, are masters of promises never kept.”

The conversation shifts as he picks up his tools once more, his voice growing louder against the wind that picks up the dry soil. “This time, the Marathas will show them their power in the Lok Sabha polls,” he declares, a fiery glint lighting up his eyes.

The issue of Maratha reservation simmers like a storm across Maharashtra, especially here in the heart of Marathwada, where last year’s massive mobilisation began—a storm of discontent that threatens to shake the very foundations of political corridors.

Unguided, but united fight 

Amid the passionate surge of community spirit leading up to the Lok Sabha elections, with demands echoing for a slice of the OBC reservation pie, the mighty Marathas of Maharashtra who comprise about 34 per cent of the State’s population, have galvanised the community to “teach a lesson” to those political parties who denied them OBC status and reservation in government jobs and education. The communal divide is clearly palpable in Marathwada, especially in Beed and Jalna, where the recent agitation originated.

 “You can vote for anyone whom you want. I am not going to tell anyone whom to vote. I am not part of this election and the community has to shoulder the responsibility to cooperate with those candidates who support Maratha reservation. We have not supported anyone nor have we fielded independent candidates. But still, there is a victory in defeat and you don’t have to contest to defeat someone,” said newly emerged Maratha leader Manoj Jarange-Patil.

 Maratha agitation

 Maratha agitation

In a dramatic turn of events, Jarange-Patil has risen as a prominent figure from the modest surroundings of Antarwali Sarathi village in Jalna in Marathwada region after police lathi charge on Marathas during Jarange-Patil’s hunger strike for reservation.

While Jarange-Patil advocates for Marathas to play a role in defeating candidates in the Lok Sabha elections, he has not specified whom they should target. He has criticised all political parties and hinted at relaunching the agitation, indicating participation in the upcoming Assembly elections scheduled for the end of this year.

Worried leaders

One section of the Maratha community now holds the BJP and its allies responsible for not supporting Maratha reservation, while another section places the blame on Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena. Both factions are determined to defeat their opponents in polls.

The politicians, especially from the ruling alliance are facing Maratha ire in Marathwada region, where there is a groundswell of resentment on the reservation issue. Pankaja Munde, daughter of BJP veteran Gopinath Munde who comes from the OBC community faces a huge challenge to make a balancing act as she faces Maratha candidate Bajrang Sonwane from NCP ( Sharad Pawar). The same is true with Union Minister Raosaheb Danve in Jalna who comes from the Maratha community.

Despite the uproar leading up to the Lok Sabha elections regarding Maratha reservation, no political party or candidate has addressed this issue in their campaign, fearing backlash from the OBC community. Maratha leaders from various parties have remained silent on the topic.

“The votes of Dalits and Muslims will matter in eight constituencies in Marathwada as there is clear consolidation of OBC and Maratha factions,” says activist Narsing Ghodke from Latur.