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Why Patels, including Anandiben, are unhappy over Gujarat’s 10% quota

Last week’s announcement of 10% reservation for the economically backward classes among upper castes has failed to mollify members of the community

india Updated: May 03, 2016 19:43 IST
Hiral Dave
patel quota
BJP president Amit Shah, Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel and state BJP chief Vijay Rupani in Gandhinagar. (PTI File Photo)

The Patels of Gujarat are unhappy, and that includes the state chief minister Anandiben Patel. Last week’s announcement of 10% reservationfor the economically backward classes among upper castes has failed to mollify members of the community. They feel it’s a case of too little, too late. Also, they fear the government decision is unlikely to stand the test of law as it violates the cap on job quotas.

The same announcement is also at the root of CM Patel’s unhappiness. Though she is at the helm of the state, the announcement of quotas for Patels was made by Gujarat BJP president Vijay Rupani. Anandiben was present but remained a mute spectator, which according to party watchers spoke volumes about her dwindling clout.

“She is the chief minister. She is also a Patel. But the announcement through Rupani is an insult to the CM’s post and dignity,” said political analyst Jawalant Chaaya, “The authority now rests with the BJP headquarters, and not the chief minister’s office,” concurred a BJP insider.

The chief minister’s critics, whose numbers have grown in recent months, say she is largely to be blamed for her predicament. Many fault her for her lack of tact. Her own Patel community has been agitating, but she has remained stubborn. On April 17, when Patel agitators clashed with police and dozens were injured, a stern Anandiben quipped: “Such agitations keep happening.”

Read | Why Gujarat’s quota move is politically smart but legally suspect

Her reluctance to negotiate and find a middle ground has not gone down well. That the Patel agitation has been allowed to fester for 10 long months is a testament of her inability to calm things down, points out a senior BJP leader of the state.

“It seems like she is yet to discard the headmistress’ role, given her days as principal of Mohiniba Girls School in Ahmedabad. Flexibility and openness of a shrewd politician was nowhere on display over the last 10 months,” pointed out veteran political observer Achyut Yagnik.

Two years since taking over from Narendra Modi after he moved to Delhi as prime minister, Anandiben finds herself in a tight corner, cut out to a large extent by her own party bosses. The party’s dismal showing in rural areas during November 2015 panchayat polls seems to have hastened her downward spiral. Plus the controversy involving her daughter Anar over alleged dubious land deals has complicated matters further for her.

Read | Hardik’s outfit rejects Gujarat’s 10% quota for economically backward

Party insiders say she would continue to be the chief minister until the next elections in 2017. But increasingly she would find herself marginalised, with important decision being taken by party bosses. The Patel-reservation decision, for that matter, was taken at the BJP national executive committee meeting chaired by president Amit Shah. And the draft ordinance for it was drawn up by a bureaucrat who is said to have been a trusted aide of Modi for more than a decade.