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Hardik Patel says Congress offering reservation, but is Patel quota possible?

Hardik Patel said on Wednesday the Congress party to reservation for Patidars. But can it be done?

assembly elections Updated: Nov 22, 2017 15:13 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Gujarat Elections,Patidar agitation,Hardik Patel
Hardik Patel at a rally in Botad, Gujarat. (HT PHOTO)

Patidar leader Hardik Patel announced on Wednesday his support to the Congress in the Gujarat elections after the party promised to give reservation to the Patel community under the OBC category..

But reservations for the community are easier said than done. Here’s a breakdown of the agitation and demand for reservation:

Who are the Patels?

They are a leading community of Gujarat, traditionally landowners, farmers and village leaders. The Patel, or Patidar, community benefited from British land reforms during the 19th century and their wealth increased accordingly.

Two major sub-castes of the Patels are the Kadvas and Leuvas. A third, much smaller group, the Anjanas, practised the barter system and were therefore considered socially backward and eligible for OBC status right from the beginning.

Kadva and Leuva Patels were left out of the selection process, triggering the first protests across North Gujarat where the Anjanas are concentrated.

What are the Patidars demanding?

They want inclusion in OBC category for reservation. The Patidars claim that they’ve received ‘no benefits since India became independent’ and are seeking reservations for the community.

The 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.

Can Patidars be given reservation?

A 1992 Supreme Court ruling says reservations cannot cross the 50% mark, and Gujarat has already reached this. That’s why the demand by the Patels to be made beneficiaries of the 27% OBC reservation has pitted them against the 146 groups which are already on the backward list and includes Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s community, the Ghanchis, who acquired OBC status as late as 1999.

The Rabaris, Bharwads, Kolis and Thakores, amongst others, have threatened to oppose any further division of their quota.

Since OBC leader Alpesh Thakor has joined forces with the Congress as well, any promise of reservation to Patels under OBC quota will lead to a backlash from the Thakore community that forms about 40% of the state’s population

Can the Supreme Court ruling be circumvented?

States such as Tamil Nadu and Karantaka have run up against the Supreme Court in the past in their bid to give quotas over and above the 50% cap.

The apex court has reiterated its position that states should stick to the 50% ceiling, but theoretically, it is possible to exceed the cap by showing exceptional circumstances or amending the Constitution to put the reservation law in the 9th Schedule, as in the case of Tamil Nadu.

The Tamil Nadu example

The Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of seats in Educational Institutions and of appointments or posts in Services under the State) Act of 1993, passed by the state legislature, introduced 69% reservation.

Under the 76th Constitution Amendment Act, 1994, Parliament enacted a legislature wherein the Tamil Nadu Reservation act was added to the IX Schedule, to “give protection to the State Act under Article 318 of the Constitution superseding the decision of the Supreme Court fixing a ceiling of 50%” for reservation.

But the issue is still not closed -- whether the state act goes against the basic tenets of the Constitution is still pending before the SC, says this Times of India report. In the meanwhile, the apex court has been passing interim orders that direct the Tamil Nadu government to create additional seats for open category students in educational institutions.

How have the BJP and Congress addressed this issue in Gujarat?

In April 2016, with an eye on the upcoming elections, the BJP government announced an ordinance which declared 10% reservation for economically backward classes among the higher castes, in addition to the 49.5% reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and OBCs.

The Gujarat government, however, eventually allowed the ordinance to lapse after the high court struck it down in August, calling it unconstitutional and illegal, reported Mint.

It remains to be seen how the Congress, if it comes to power, will manage to implement quotas for Patidars,without touching the 49.5% reservation. Hardik Patel, during his press conference on Wednesday, said the Congress would use Article 31 and 46 to bring in a bill for non-reserved classes.

First Published: Nov 22, 2017 15:11 IST