Declaring that Patidars were “not going to openly support the Congress or canvass for them” but underlining that their “fight against BJP” in the Gujarat assembly polls next month would “directly or indirectly” benefit the Congress, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel Wednesday said they had accepted a Congress “formula” on granting reservation to Patidars and other non-reserved categories “at par with OBC reservation”.
Reacting to the announcement, BJP leader and Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said: “The nexus between Congress and PAAS that was planned two years ago stands exposed. Hardik has been speaking from a script given to him by the Congress… Fools have made a proposal and fools have accepted it.”
Describing the Congress “formula” as the “biggest joke” in the last two years, Nitin Patel said: “The cap of 49 per cent has been placed by a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court… If the Congress brings a law based on their formula, I am sure it will be struck down by the court since reservation above 50 per cent cannot be given.”
The Deputy Chief Minister had a message for Hardik Patel: “You are a young boy, like a son, of the community and we have tolerated your acts because we were bound by the ‘maryada’ of the chair. You have ransacked our offices, burnt our effigies, but you must stop it now. In my political career, I have seen a number of persons like you who have gone into oblivion. You will not be in a position to show your face to the community, if you do not mend your ways even now.”
Earlier, addressing a press conference, Hardik Patel said: “We accept the formula given by the Congress party on granting reservation to Patidars and other communities without disturbing the quota of ST/SC/OBC communities under the provisions of Articles 46, 31(C), 15(4) and 16(4).” He said he was making the announcement after informing two major Patidar organisations, Khodaldham and Umiyadham of Kagvad in Rajkot and Unjha in Mehsana respectively, about the “formula”.
“Nowhere in the Constitution is it written that reservation above 50 per cent cannot be given. It is only some judgments of the Supreme Court, in the form of suggestions, that reservation should not cross 50 per cent,” he said. According to Hardik Patel, they had held talks on this with the BJP as well but the party lacked “niyat” (intention) to grant reservation to Patidars. “The Congress has heard our plight, our rights and when they have offered a formula which seems plausible, we must listen to it.”
Referring to the ordinance brought by the BJP government in Gujarat to grant 10 per cent reservation to the economically weaker sections, and which was struck down by the High Court in August 2016, the PAAS leader said the High Court had observed that the Gujarat government did not even do a survey of communities to provide them reservation. “The Congress has said it will get the survey done, and it means a lot to us,” he said. “Congressmen are not our cousins, but when they speak of our rights, we must listen to it. We are not going to openly support the Congress or canvass for them… But when we fight against the BJP, it will give support, directly or indirectly, to the Congress,” he said.
On cracks in the PAAS, Hardik Patel said “some so-called members of PAAS” have filed nomination papers as independent candidates. He alleged that the “BJP has kept a budget of Rs 200 crore to field such persons” and “attempts are being made to destroy PAAS”. He appealed to the Patidars “not to waste their votes” by voting for independents or “any other party” since that will “deprive them of their rights”.