'I am a Muslim and if my Hindu brothers were to march to my house and if that were to give birth to any controversy, then this government will use it to exploit another issue.'
'I don't want to give BJP leaders a chance to play their communal politics.'
As the Maratha community's agitation for quotas in government jobs and education escalated, another MLA from Maharashtra resigned in support of the quota demand.
Congress MLA Abdul Sattar, who represents Sillod in Aurangabad district, sent his resignation to Maharashtra assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagde.
Before Sattar, another Congress MLA Bharat Bhalke, Nationalist Congress Party MLAs Bhausaheb Patil Chikatgaonkar and Dattatraya Bharne, the Bharatiya Janata Party's Rahul Aher, the Shiv Sena's Harshvardhan Jadhav had resigned demanding reservation for the Marathas.
"Ab mujh par koi bandhan nahi hai (Now, I am under no obligation). I will fight for nyay (justice). And will keep fighting alongside the protesters till the time they get reservations," Sattar, below, tells Prasanna D Zore.
Why did you resign?
The last Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra had given reservations to Marathas and Muslims, but this government could not give justice to them.
As a result, the Marathas today have taken to the streets to demand their just rights.
Even as they are agitating for it, the Devendra Fadnavis government has remained a mute spectator to their plight.
It was this government's moral responsibility to take the fight for reservations forward in the courts, but it failed miserably.
To add to that, the police under this government are humiliating the protesters by beating them and rounding them up.
This government has failed to take any decisive measure to implement the ordinance passed by the previous Congress-NCP government, which accepted reservations for Marathas, Dhangars and Muslims.
Despite the courts giving a green signal for reservation to Muslims, (the Bombay high court had upheld reservations for Muslims only in educational institutions even as it rejected quota for Muslims in jobs. The court had quashed an ordinance passed by the previous Congress-NCP government in 2014 to grant 16 per cent quotas to Marathas and 5 per cent quotas to Muslims. The current government has asked the court for its opinion in this ongoing case) this government purposely did not implement it.
The Fadnavis government had in its election manifesto promised reservations for the Dhangars. But even they are waiting for this government to offer them reservation quota in education and jobs.
The Dhangars too are preparing to agitate on the streets for what was promised to them.
The Kolis (fisherfolk) and tribals too were promised reservations, but this government have not yet fulfilled any of these assurances.
To protest against this injustice, I decided to resign from my seat in Sillod.
You claim that the Congress-NCP government passed an ordinance to give reservations to the Marathas and Muslims, but the Bombay high court struck down that ordinance that gave reservations to Marathas and Muslims in jobs...
Yes, that is true.
But then it was the duty of the Fadnavis government to take steps to find solution to these issues.
The new government that was formed in Maharashtra failed to plead its case strongly in the high court.
This government should have brought it to the court's notice that these reservations were not based on religion, but on their economic backward status.
They failed to convince the court that to bring these economically backward constituents of Maharashtra on an equal footing with those who have the privilege of education and jobs.
It was necessary to implement the ordinance passed by our government.
The Congress government had known this plight of the Marathas, Muslims, Dhangars and others and so we had passed that ordinance.
After this ordinance was effected, many people from these two communities benefited from it.
But then the court stayed it.
The court had accepted the reservations for Muslims, but still this government did not implement it.
This should not have been an issue at all.
This should give you a peek into this government's thinking and ideology.
It is the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) that makes the policies, makes the decisions and the BJP implements it.
This government only listens to what the RSS has to say.
All this is now manifesting as anger on the streets and even though only the Marathas are expressing it aggressively, the Dhangars, the Kolis and Muslims are also not too happy.
What has the RSS got to do with what the government does or doesn't do?
There is no question of unnecessarily dragging the RSS into this.
I am just explaining the ground reality about why this government is weakening the case of reservation for Marathas and Muslims.
On the one hand, this government did not forcefully support the case for reservation for Marathas in the courts and on the other they purposely didn't implement the reservation for Muslims which had got the green signal from the court.
When the high court has given the green signal, then how can we listen to what I, you, Devendraji or the RSS wants?
Was there any pressure on you from your voters to resign?
They (the Marathas) said they would be launching an agitation in front of my house from August 1 if I did not resign.
In fact, they will be agitating outside the homes of all the MLAs of the state from August 1 if they don't get any assurance from the government on their demands.
So, you resigned under duress? Are you scared your voters won't elect you again?
No, I am not scared or under any pressure from anybody.
I am a Muslim and if my Hindu brothers were to march to my house and if that were to give birth to any controversy, then this government will use it to exploit another issue.
The Muslims, the Marathas, the Dhangars are all my voters.
As their representative, I belong to all of them.
There are over 130,000 Marathas in my constituency and if even 5,000 or 500 of them were to march to my house, and even if by mistake some controversy arises because of it, in such a situation, I thought it was wiser for me to resign.
Are you saying that the protesters who threatened to march to your home would be so insensitive to give a communal colour to it?
No, you are not getting what I want to say.
They have already announced that they will agitate in front of the homes of Maharashtra MLAs and demand their resignations.
What makes you say that?
Listen, in my constituency, there are 40,000 Muslims and the rest are Hindus.
I don't want to give BJP leaders a chance to play their communal politics in such an environment.
So, I decided to resign to protest against non-implementation of the reservation demands by the Marathas, Dhangars, Kolis and Muslims.
To support the just cause of my constituents is not an unfair thing to do.
The issue of reservation quotas for Marathas has been pending since your party was ousted out of power and much before that. Why resign a year before the next assembly election in the state?
Whenever we got a chance to raise this issue, we did so during the various sessions of the Maharashtra assembly.
We have been quite vociferous with our demand for implementation of quotas for the Marathas, Dhangars, Kolis and Muslims.
We have raised our demands in the most parliamentary manner.
Are you saying that we should have resorted to violence for this government to understand the poor condition of these people?
We just cannot do that.
Whatever we could do democratically, we have given voice to the demands of these people.
But this government chose only to ignore the voices of the people.
They will never speak truthfully what they intend to do.
They just want to keep the political pot boiling.
They believe in just promising the moon, but will not initiate measures to help the poor.
The farmers too are going through the same treatment.
Every person in this country and state has aspirations and if those aspirations are looked down upon by the ruling party, then we have no choice but to hit the streets.
We will be with the agitators out there on the streets.
Why didn't you resign earlier? Why now?
If we had resigned on the very first day (of the current agitation), then those who elected us would have blamed us for chickening out of a fight, of not creating awareness about their situation to the rulers of the state.
They would have demanded accountability from us.
To be truthful to our constituents, we did raise the issue of reservations during every session of the assembly.
Check our records about how we fought over this issue.
But now that we have realised that this fight is not bringing any result, we have decided to resign and join the protesters.
Will your resignation get the reservations for Marathas and Muslims?
Whatever be the fate of the reservation, the people who trusted and voted for me are now looking forward for our empathy.
We can't leave them in the lurch at this juncture.
We have to be with them is what the situation now demands and we are just biding by it.
Are there any other Congress MLAs who could follow you?
We had a meeting of all our MLAs and MPs (from Maharashtra) and all of us expressed our strong feelings about the reservation issue before the senior leaders.
They have promised to take this issue with the party high command and once we get a green signal from it, all of us would resign.
All Congress MPs and MLAs from Maharashtra to resign en masse?
We have expressed our desire to resign.
Our senior leaders will take a decision on this matter and we will obey the decision of the party high command.
As a democratic party, the Congress allows everybody to voice its feelings openly.
We will be thankful to our party if they were to accept our decision or reject it.
But in my personal opinion, it is better to resign from our constituencies if we cannot help our people get justice.
We did not become people's representatives just to earn allowances and salaries.
We have become MLAs so that we can be with our people through their difficult times and fight for their demands and justice.
Now that you have resigned, how will you continue your fight for reservations for the Marathas and Muslims?
Being an elected representative, I was under certain restrictions.
But now that I have resigned I will be joining my people in their agitation and hit the streets to be with them in their fight for reservations.
Ab mujh par koi bandhan nahi hai (Now, I am under no obligation). I will fight for nyay (justice).
I will keep fighting alongside the protesters till the time they get reservations.
Can you categorically state that if a Congress-led government were to be voted to power in Maharashtra in 2019, you will implement quotas in education and jobs for all the people who are demanding it?
We already presented an example of our commitment to reservation in 2014 when after our cCabinet meeting, we passed an ordinance (to give 16 per cent reservations to the Marathas and 5 per cent to Muslims).
Nobody will be able to stop us from implementing quotas for the Marathas, Dhangars, Kolis and tribals.