Patel quota: Hardik Patel, Cong strike deal

Hardik Patel - Patel Quota Stir
Hardik Patel - Patel Quota Stir

Patel quota: The Congress and the Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) on Sunday reached an agreement over the issue of reservation for the Patidar community.

“We have reached maximum agreement on the issue of reservation from the Congress side, and a formal announcement and details would be shared by Hardik Patel from Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s constituency of Rajkot on Monday,” Dinesh Bhambaniya, PAAS convener and a close aide of Hardik, told mediapersons after a meeting with Congress leaders.

The hour-long meeting was attended by Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki and senior party leader Siddharth Patel, while PAAS was represented by 11 members to discuss on Patel quota.

Solanki, for his part, said the party has reached an agreement over the issue of reservation for the Patidars in government jobs and educational institutions.

However, neither the Congress nor PAAS was willing to divulge details.

“We have taken forward the discussions from where they had left of the last time. The outcome is positive and the talks were held in an amiable environment,” he said.

The Patels, who have traditionally been BJP supporters, led by 24-year-old Hardik, have been agitating since 2015, seeking quotas in government jobs and educational institutions.

The agitation, which witnessed the death of 14 youngsters and several others being jailed, has changed the face of polity in the state. The agitation is also believed to have acted as a catalyst for other communities, including the OBCs and Dalits, to unite and launch a protest. It has also seen the ruling BJP and Opposition Congress trying woo these community leaders into their fold.

While the Congress has been able to woo Alpesh Thakore, who is leading the OBC stir, into its fold, it has been able to convince Dalit youth leader Jignesh Mevani to come out in open support of the party.

Now, their aim is to rope in Hardik, who is believed to have clout over the politically, socially and economically dominant Patel community in the state.

While the Patels who demand Patel quota comprise 12-14% of the electorate and have influence over 60 of the 182 Assembly seats, OBCs and Dalits account for almost three-fourths of the voters. With the Gujarat Assembly elections due for December 9 and 14, their support could prove crucial for the Congress, which has been out of power in the state for over 22 years.

On the issue of a few Patidar leaders contesting the Assembly polls on the Congress’ platform, the party and PAAS denied having any discussion on that front.

While Solanki said the party, “in the interest of the state and the people”, may field PAAS leaders, Bhambaniya said, “We have not sought tickets, neither now nor in the past. Reservations have been our first and only demand.”