Gujarat elections: Hardik Patel says Congress has agreed to give Patidar community reservation
Patidar leader Hardik Patel said on Wednesday the Congress has accepted the community’s demand to be given quotas in jobs and college admissions if voted to power, an understanding that could help swing crucial votes in the Gujarat elections due next month.
“Congress has agreed to give Patidars reservation. They have said they will bring a bill in Gujarat assembly if voted to power,” said Patel, the leader of the powerful Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS).
Patidars make up around 12% of the state’s population and can potentially influence the outcome in around 60 seats in a 182-member state assembly.
According to Patel, the quota formula will be included in Congress’s manifesto and the reservation will be based on Article 46 and Article 31 of the Constitution. “The existing 49% SC/ST/OBC reservation will not be disturbed”.
He said there had been no ticket-sharing arrangement with the Congress and that his outfit PAAS will continue its agitation. “I am not joining any political party,” Patel declared.
He also hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. “The BJP is trying to fund independent Patidar candidates to divide votes and win.”
PAAS has led a strident agitation targeting the ruling Bharatiya Janata party government in a string of demonstrations that began more than two years ago in July, 2015.
Hardik, the face of the movement, has been increasingly close to the Congress, as have the leaders of other prominent agitations; Jignesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakore who joined the party recently.
The Gujarat Congress has been reaching out to all three to put together a coalition of support to take on the BJP in a state that is largely seen as a saffron stronghold.
Gujarat currently has 49% reservation that includes 7% for Scheduled Castes, 15% for Scheduled Tribes and 27% for OBCs.
In 1992, the Supreme Court set a ceiling of 50% for all types of reservation while ruling that the Mandal Commission’s recommendation giving reservations to OBCs was constitutionally valid.
If the Congress’s promise of reservation to Patels takes the total proportion of quotas to beyond the 50% mark, it will run counter to the Supreme Court ruling and risk being struck down.
The top court recently stayed a similar decision by Rajasthan government to give quotas to Gujjars, which took the total reservation in the state to upward of 50%.
Article 46 of the Indian Constitution provides the basis for reservations in India to help the development of castes or classes that have been socially or economically deprived.
Article 31C protects laws that give effect to directive principles of state policy even if they are in contravention with Fundamental Rights.