Gujarat side-steps Patels, gives quota to 'economically backward'
Under pressure due to Patel quota agitation, BJP government in Gujarat today announced 10% reservation for the economically backwards among upper castes, which include Patidars, with a family income cap of ₹6 lakh a year to avail the benefit.
The decision, taken in the state party's core group meeting in which BJP president Amit Shah was also present, comes after the recent reverses in the civic polls left the party jittery in the state where Assembly election are due next year.
Senior BJP leaders, flanked by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel made the announcement of 10% reservation for the economically backwards in the general category.
The reservation limit of 50% set by the Supreme Court will be breached with this decision, but the state government said it is "serious" on the issue and will "fight it" out legally.
"A notification will be issued on the Gujarat state formation day on May 1, and EBCs among general category will be able to take the benefit of the reservation in education and jobs from the next academic year," state BJP President Vijay Rupani said.
"Families having an annual income of ₹6 lakh or below will be eligible to avail the reservation. That means a family having an income up to ₹50,000 per month can take the benefit of the scheme," he said.
The reservation announced by the government will be over and above the cap of 50% reservation set by the Supreme Court, and may face legal hurdles. The state government already provides 50 percent reservation to SC/STs and OBCs.
The BJP government has been facing violent protests led by Hardik Patel from the numerically and socially strong Patel community which is seeking reservation in education and government jobs under the OBC category.
The BJP had suffered heavy losses in the rural local bodies polls recently, which were blamed on the Patel quota stir.
The Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) which was demanding inclusion of the Patels in the OBC category for reservation, today rejected Gujarat government's announcement of 10 percent reservation for the economically backwards among upper castes and termed it as a "lollipop" by the government to misguide Patel community.
However, another quota agitation body Sardar Patel Group (SPG) welcomed the government's move but said they will assess how it will help Patel community and up to what extent. According to PAAS spokesperson Brijesh Patel, their original demand was to include Patels in the OBC for reservation or provide a separate quota for the community, just like Haryana did for Jats recently.
"This announcement is a tactic by BJP government to silence the Patel community. But, we will not get misled by this announcement. BJP will have to face consequences for playing such politics. PAAS will launch protests across Gujarat against this announcement," Brijesh Patel said.
The SPG, meanwhile, welcomed the government's move. "We welcome this announcement, as SPG was always in favour of EBC quota rather than getting included in the OBC list," SPG spokesperson Purvin Patel said.
"However, we will assess this scheme before coming to any conclusion. We will clear our stand after going through it as we need to check how it will help Patel community and up to what extent," he said.