Agitation for reservation by Patel community puts BJP government in bind

Ahmedabad: The agitation by Gujarat's financially strong Patel community demanding reservation under the OBC quota before the 2017 state elections has put the state government in a bind.

Members of the Patel community have been holding massive rallies in different parts of the state to press for their demands for the last couple of months, with one of them turning violent in Vijapur.

The OBC quota reservation agitation, inspired by Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan, has stirred the political scene of the state with the ruling-BJP accusing hand of opposition Congress behind it.

The Congress, however, has refuted the allegation, saying there arises no question of supporting as Patels have not approached them.

Patel community, which makes up around 20 per cent population of Gujarat, has stood behind the BJP for past two decades and had given a strong electoral support to the party.

Convener of the agitation Hardik Patel said though his community is considered financially well off, a large share of 40 per cent is not, and hence, the government should give reservation under the OBC quota.

"The government should give a promise to include us in OBC quota for reservations by 2017. Else, we will intensify our agitation," Patel said. Maintaining that their agitation is 'non-political', he demanded that politicians belonging to Patel community should resign from both BJP and Congress in support of the agitation.

Meanwhile, the BJP is in a bind as to how to control the stir that has gained momentum in past some time. Union Minister Mohan Kundariya, also a leader representing Patels, charged that it is opposition Congress which is backing the agitation.

"There is a Congress hand in the agitation. Congress is favouring the stir as they failed to come to power (in the state) for the last 25 years. It is clear the cap for reservation is 50 per cent and we cannot give beyond that," Kundariya has said in Rajkot.

The state BJP has also asked the agitating members to come to the negotiation table and put forth their demands. Meanwhile, the Congress distancing itself from the issue, questioned the rationale behind the move when the Patel community is already 'very progressive'.

"Though we are not concerned in anyway with Patel community's agitation, we would like to ask why Patels, who are considered to be very progressive, have come out to the streets with such a demand," Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.

"What has happened under BJP's last 15 to 20 years rule? Are youth of the community not getting jobs, education? Are they not getting proper income from agriculture, do they have to close their businesses? Why this progressive community has to come out on streets demanding reservation. We want to ask these questions to BJP," he said.

Doshi, however, refuted the allegation of his party backing the protests and said there arises no question of supporting or not supporting as the community has not approached them.

"Otherwise also our stand will be in accordance with law and constitution regarding this issue," he further added.

Patels are considered to be the most influential community financially and politically in the state as they are the main farming community, have control of various businesses of the state, including big industries and have dominated the political scene of the state.

The BJP is in a dilemma on handling the issue as they are its core vote base in the state and they cannot afford to ignore the community.

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