In the run-up to Maharashtra polls, the Dhangar community is making its presence felt.
The Dhangar (shepard) community is present mainly in the Western Maharashtra and Marathwada regions - and account for over 9 per cent of the state's population.
Their votes are important on four Lok Sabha and 30 to 35 Lok Sabha seats. Majority population lives in four districts of Solapur, Satara, Sangli and Pune.
The BJP-Sena government led by Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra has not been able to provide reservation to the Dhangar community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. It was a promise made ahead of, 2014 polls.
Moreover, Dhangar leader Mahadev Jankar, who is the founder of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, is unhappy over ticket distribution and two of his three candidates being given AB form by BJP to contest under their symbol. "I feel cheated," says Jankar, who is the animal husbandry minister.
As of now, the Danghar get reservation under Vimukta Jati & Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) category of Maharashtra.
The Dhangar community groups had been agitating for reservation in ST category in Maharashtra - as the "Dhangad" get reservation in other parts of India in SC category.
A topographical error Dhangar (Dhangad) has led to the problem and they get a reservation in VJNT category in Maharashtra.
Of the total 52 per cent reservation in the state, SCs and STs account for 13 and 7 per cent, respectively, OBCs get 19 per cent, VJNT, Special Backward Class and Nomadic Tribes account for 13 per cent and Marathas 12-13 per cent.
The issue has been addressed by the Centre.
On its part, the Fadnavis government has decided to extend all schemes of the Tribal Welfare Department to Dhangars till a decision on the reservation is taken.
It has also been decided to strengthen the Ahilyabai Holkar MahaMandal (corporation) and expand the scope for skill training and self-financing to youth from the community. 10,000 houses will also be constructed for the community. 'Swayam' like scheme will also be launched. Benefits of pre and post matriculation scholarship will be given to the Dhangar community.
But the demand for reservation in ST category remains unfulfilled.