GANDHINAGAR: Facing the heat over Patel quota agitation, the BJP government in Gujarat today announced 10 per cent reservation for the economically backward among upper castes up to an annual family income of Rs 6 lakh, but the Hardik Patel-led outfit rejected it.
The decision, which came in the wake of reverses suffered by the BJP in the civic polls and in view of the Assembly elections due next year, however, breaches the reservation limit of 50 per cent set by the apex court. The state government already provides 50 per cent quota to SC/STs and OBCs.
The Opposition Congress said the announcement of 10 per cent quota for EBCs was “deceptive” and meant to assuage the Patel community.
The crucial decision was taken at the state BJP unit’s core group meeting which was also attended by national president Amit Shah. It set a family income cap of Rs 6 lakh a year to avail the benefit for education and jobs.
In its initial reaction, quota agitation leader Hardik Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti rejected the move as another “lollipop” extended by the BJP and the state government to “mislead” their community.
However, another quota agitation body Sardar Patel Group (SPG) welcomed the government’s move, but said they will assess how it will help the community and up to what extent.
“Our core group meeting, headed by national president Amit Shah, has decided to give 10 per cent reservation for economically backward among general category,” state BJP president Vijay Rupani, flanked by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and senior minister Nitin Patel, told reporters.
“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,” he said.
“Families having an annual income of Rs 6 lakh or below will be eligible to avail the reservation. That means a family having an income up to Rs 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 per cent reservation set by the Supreme Court, and may face legal hurdles.
Asked if the move will stand legal scrutiny, Rupani said, “We are very serious about this and we will fight it up to the apex court for reservation of economically backward among the general category.”
“We have not touched the quota given to SC, STs and OBCs. Their quota is intact,” Rupani said, seeking to assuage the OBC community, which had launched a counter agitation against giving reservation to Patels.
When asked if this reservation scheme comes on the recommendations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, “The decision was taken in a core group meeting in which national party president Amit Shah was present. So, it has got green signal from everybody in national party.” Asked if the decision was not taken under pressure of Patel agitation, Rupani said, “The decision has been taken in view of demands of various communities for reservation for economically backward among upper class.”
He also rubbished the suggestion the decision was taken after state Congress made an announcement that if it comes to power in 2017, the party will bring economically backward among upper caste under the ambit of reservation.
“The Congress is just indulging in tall assertions. We are making a concrete announcement. I challenge Congress to formulate such schemes for upper castes in those states where they are in power,” Rupani said.
The BJP government has been facing violent protests since August last year, led by Hardik Patel and Lalji Patel, seeking reservation for the numerically and socially strong Patel community in education and government jobs under the OBC category.
Ten people died when the agitation turned violent in August last year.
The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti said it does not accept the government’s decision.
“This is just another ‘lollipop’ given by the state government to mislead the Patel community. We do not accept this reservation for EBCs. Our main demand is to release Hardik Patel from jail and then we will decided about future course of action,” PAAS spokesperson Dharmik Malaviya said.
Another PAAS spokesperson Brijesh Patel said, “This 10 per cent reservation for EBCs is nothing but a lollipop by government to misguide the Patel community. Hardik and PAAS never asked for it. We always wanted reservation under OBC quota or like the reservation granted to Jats by the Haryana government.”
“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,” he said.
The SPG, meanwhile, welcomed the government’s move.
“We welcome this announcement, as SPG was always in favor 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.
The BJP had suffered heavy losses in the rural local bodies polls recently, which were blamed on the Patel quota stir.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in state Assembly Shankarsinh Waghela said the announcement of 10 per cent reservation to EBCs was deceptive and it is like a “lollipop” to the Patel community.
He demanded an increase in the reservation for EBCs from 10 per cent to 20 per cent and that the income cap should also be increased from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 12 lakh.–PTI