Hardik Patel on Wednesday addressed a much-awaited press conference and expressed his “direct or indirect” support for the Congress in the upcoming Gujarat elections. He accepted the formula given by the party to provide “constitutional reservation” to Patidars and other non-reserved categories, describing the deal as plausible.
In response, Gujarat’s deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said the agreement showed a two-year-old nexus between the two. “Fools have made a proposal and fools have accepted it,” he said, adding, more than 50 per cent reservation was not tenable in view of a nine-judge bench judgment of the Supreme Court.
The development has highlighted how politics prevailed on the issue of reservation on both the sides – Hardik and the ruling BJP – as the stands taken by both are contrary to their previous stance on the issue.
The original demand of the Patidar quota stir was to get reservation under the OBC category for the community. Hardik’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) had demanded this even during its negotiations with the BJP-ruled Gujarat government.
However, the deal with Congress, in Hardik’s own words, is about providing constitutional reservation to non-reserved communities that will be ‘at par with OBC’. Hardik said the Congress had promised to bring a legislative bill to implement this formula at the earliest after coming to power.
Hardik cited several Articles of the Constitution, saying the Congress formula would be based on those provisions. He also stated that nowhere in the Constitution it was written that reservation above 50 per cent could not be given. It is clear that Hardik has shed the demand of OBC reservation and is ready to support Congress after accepting “its formula”.
However, the 23-year-old refrained from saying that his outfit would openly support the Congress. “When I say that we will fight against BJP, (we) will give support directly or indirectly to the Congress,” he said. BJP has always maintained that Hardik was only searching for an opportunity to support the Congress.
The Gujarat BJP, meanwhile, has completely ruled out the judicial tenability of Congress’ quota formula. “Hardik has cited articles of the Constitution like an expert. In reality, he is only reading out a script given to him by the Congress. He does not know anything about the Constitution. He does not know what is a nine-judge bench of Supreme Court or what is a Constitutional bench of Supreme Court (that has ruled that reservation cannot cross 50 per cent),” Nitin Patel said just after the PAAS convenor’s press conference.
The deputy CM even circulated a recent order of a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court restraining the Rajasthan government from implementing its legislation that gives 5 per cent reservation to Gujjars, and in process, crosses the 50 per cent cap.
Interestingly, the deputy CM’s remarks flies in the face of his own government’s ordinance that was promulgated to give 10 per cent reservation in government jobs and education to Economically Weaker Sections. The Gujarat Unreserved Economically Weaker Sections (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Ordinance, 2016 also took reservations beyond 50 per cent cap and was quashed by the High Court in August last year.
The Vijay Rupani-led government has challenged it before Supreme Court, where the matter is pending. When asked how the government would defend its case before the Supreme Court, he replied, “Team of our advocates is doing that.”