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Reservation to Patel community can create a domino effect

If the Patels have their way, the reservation genie will be well and truly out of the bottle.

editorials Updated: Aug 26, 2015 22:28 IST
Hindustan Times
Members of the Patel community raise their arms as they shout slogans during a protest rally in Ahmedabad. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conciliatory words that the quota issue can be resolved through talks have not had a calming effect on Gujarat which is on the boil thanks to the Patel agitation.

Large parts of the state have come to a standstill with the Patels demanding OBC status. The government has to tread cautiously on this demand.

The Patel community in the state is powerful — economically and politically — and will be able to maintain the pressure on the Centre for a long time to come. One-third of the BJP’s 121 MLAs in Gujarat are Patels and there are many Patels also in the Opposition. The majority of ministers in the Gujarat cabinet, the head of the BJP in the state and the chief minister herself are Patels.

Read: Patel stir: 6 killed, army called in to control Gujarat violence

To complicate matters, the Patels seem to have split down the middle so the government will find itself having to deal with two factions eventually. The BJP has always considered that it has a solid grip on the community, but that is being put to the test now. However, it is difficult to justify reservations for Patels. The Patidar or Patel does not have the disempowered status of most of the communities in the Mandal Commission list.

Read:Patel stir hits Ahmedabad: Inside a city charred by caste tension

Indeed, one reason Patels are able to mount such pressure is their ability to mobilise themselves so effectively.

The other aspect is economic.

Here it would be the rare reader who is not familiar with the phenomenal success of the Patels not just in India, but across the world, particularly the US, where they have shown the ability to build motel and other enterprises that no other community can compete with.

There is one aspect which may have held the Patels back to an extent and that is education.

The fact that Gujarat does not have English as a subject till Class V has been a drawback as also the disinclination to go in for higher education. There does not seem to be any factor in the state which could have hindered their educational progress, so perhaps the answer lies in culture.

If the Patels have their way, the reservation genie will be out of the bottle; others like the Jats have agitated for reservations in the past. More communities could also throw their hats in the ring. It is clear that reservations for the Patels would signify a deeply disturbing turn in the Mandal saga and one that the government should be wary of taking.

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First Published: Aug 26, 2015 21:48 IST