After they held over 10 rallies in a month, the Patidars on Wednesday were finally invited by the Gujarat government to discuss their demand for OBC status and reservation benefits.
Asserting that the government was following constitutional provisions over the issue, its spokesperson and Health Minister Nitin Patel said: “We invite them (the agitators), including proper social groups and their leaders, to discuss the issue with the government.”
However, he warned: “Steps will be taken against those trying to disturb peace.”
The BJP government’s spokesperson also accused Opposition Congress of resorting to “cheap tactics” of instigating and misguiding the Patidar or Patel community.
“Congress has resorted to cheap tactics of divide and rule. On one hand, it is misguiding the Patidar youths, and on the other, it is working with the reserved-category communities, making them apprehensive of the scenario if the Patidars granted OBC status,” the minister said. “Instead of playing divide and rule, and disturbing peace and harmony, Congress should come clear on its stand whether it supports their demand.”
The government further alleged that a large number of Congress leaders and workers were involved in the agitation. “If Vijapur Congress MLA Prahlad Patel has written to Chief Minister Anandiben Patel with a request to consider the demand of the Patidars, convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti Hardik Patel is a Congress worker,” said the minister.
As many as 96 groups of the Patidar community have come under the umbrella of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, seeking OBC status to get reservation in college admissions and government jobs.
The Samiti has held rallies across the state since the beginning of July and submitted memoranda to respective mamlatdars and collectors.
Their agitation gathered attention of political parties after violence during a rally at Visnagar in Mehsana district on July 16.
The Samiti, which also took out rallies in Gandhinagar, Himmatnagar and Dwarka, has also planned major rallies in Ahmedabad and Vadodara later this month.
Earlier, BJP, which has a significant number of leaders from the Patidar community, including the Chief Minister and president of the state party unit R C Faldu, had cited the Supreme Court order of limiting reservation to 50 per cent, and suggested that the agitators should have presented their demand before a right forum in the government.