Nearly nine months after the Patidars began their agitation in BJP’s model state Gujarat demanding reservation under OBC category, the saffron party has finally bowed to the pressure. State BJP president Vijay Rupani on April 29 announced 10 per cent reservation for economically backward classes from the general category.
Flanked by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and senior minister Nitin Patel, Rupani told media persons in Gandhingar that the government would bring in an ordinance on May 1—Gujarat Day. The income limit of the family to be eligible for the reservation has been kept at less than Rs 6 lakh annually.
The reservation will be in addition to the financial assistance that was announced by the chief minister last year for the meritorious students from non-reserved categories. “That scheme will continue. We want students to study,” Anandiben quipped.
Lalji Patel of the Sardar Patel Group, one of the groups of the agitation, said that it would be possible for him to react only after studying the details.
Though the Congress had demanded reservation based on economic criteria, the party does not appear to be happy with the decision. Opposition leader in the state assembly Shankersinh Vagehla said that the state government should give at least 20 per cent reservation on economic basis. He described the move a “lollipop”.
Central Gujarat convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti Uday Patel termed the move as “new lollipop” and said that their demand was for reservation in the OBC category or Rajasthan/Haryana pattern. He said that 10 per cent reservation to 3.5 crore people falling in this category was just not acceptable. He said that the PAAS had not even accepted Congress’ demand of 20 per cent reservation on economic lines.
The decision to give 10 per cent reservation to those from the non-reserved category falling in EBC was taken at a meeting where national BJP president Amit Shah was present, apart from Anandiben, senior ministers and key persons from the state party.
Apart from the financial criteria, merit criteria will also be applicable, Rupani said. However, he did not elaborate further. He said that the students would benefit from this in the next academic session beginning in June and that this was one of the reasons that an ordinance is being brought in on May 1.
Asked if the state government had given in to the demands of the Patidar leaders, Rupani said that there has been a discussion at the national level about reservation on economic lines. “This is based on that,” he said.
Rupani accused the Congress of making a political demand and asked as to why the Congress did not bring in this reservation when it was in power.
The BJP had suffered reserves in the elections to civic bodies and panchayats last year and much of it has been attributed to the Patel ire. In the result of the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation announced earlier this week, the BJP and the Congress shared 16 seats each in the 32-seat civic body. Though the BJP managed to contain the Congress, its performance is not being considered good for the fact that the party has been ruling Gujarat for over 15 years now and Gandhinagar is the state capital.
Patidar leader Hardik Patel has been behind the bar for six months on the charges of sedition. His five aides Chirag Patel, Ketan Patel, Dinesh Bambhania, Vipul Desai and Chirag Desai were granted bail on April 28.
The reservation stir has claimed 12 lives, including that of a policeman, in the state.