The demand for quota by Patidars is likely to be a key issue in run up to Gujarat Assembly polls next year, with BJP’s attempt to put the row behind by announcing 10 per cent reservations for economically backward among the upper castes appearing to meet little success.
After a nine-month long sustained agitation by Patidars led by their young leader Hardik Patel, the state government tried to placate the community by announcing reservations recently. However, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) has rejected it.
Earlier, the state government had declared a scheme, Mukhyamantri Yuva Swavlamban Yojna, for providing financial assistance to poor students of upper caste to counter Patel quota agitation. However, that attempt too had failed.
The main opposition Congress, terming the government move as a “lollipop” to the Patidars, has said that if they come to power in the next elections, they will increase the EBC quota to 20 per cent.
The Congress, which has been out of power in the state for last 25 years, had a surprise win in the local bodies poll held in December last year after the Patel quota agitation, and is quite optimistic of its prospects in the next year’s elections.
Lack of a mass leader like Narendra Modi in state politics and plagued by issue like quota agitation, BJP, which has been winning all elections in the state for the last 20 years, is finding it difficult to maintain its tempo in the the run up to the 2017 elections.
The BJP had hoped that the quota issues will be settled with its announcement of 10 per cent reservation for economically backward among upper castes including Patidars before the election season starts, a party leader said.
“The quota issue will dominate the elections as it is a need of the hour. Those who are demanding it, their demand is genuine. The announcement of 10 per cent reservations for EBCs among Upper Caste is too little too late. They are in a fix,” Gujarat Congress general secretary Nishit Vyas said.
“We have announced 20 per cent reservation for EBCs if we come to power,” Vyas added.
The BJP, however, claimed that their announcement of 10 per cent quota has been widely accepted by the Patel community and only few members of PAAS want to hang on to the issue.
“Our announcement of quota for EBCs has been widely accepted in all the sections of the (Patel) community. Only a few elements in PAAS who are supported by Congress are making noise against our announcement. Congress’ tactics will not work here,” BJP spokesperson Harsad Patel said.