Senior Congress leaders are likely to meet the Patidar quota agitation spearhead, Hardik Patel, in Ahmedabad tomorrow to discuss modalities of providing reservation to the community, a precondition set by the young leader for supporting the party in the coming Assembly polls. According to Congress sources, former Union minister Kapil Sibal will lead the Congress team.
The Congress is trying to woo all those disgruntled with the BJP government to stitch an alliance in its bid to oust the saffron outfit from power in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. The Patidars have been demanding that the Congress make its stand clear on how it plans to provide reservation to them without crossing the 50 per cent upper limit on quota fixed by the Supreme Court.
The Congress is working out the modalities of provide reservation to the Patidars under the OBC category, a condition set by 24-year-old Hardik Patel for extending his community’s support to the party. Sibal was not available for comments. Sibal has met some Congress leaders from the state on Sunday.
Hardik Patel has said that he would support the Congress in the Assembly election due next month, only if the party committed itself to allotting quota in education and government jobs to his community under the OBC category. He had set a deadline of November 7 for the Congress to make its stand clear on the issue.
Former Gujarat Congress chief Siddharth Patel has said that the Congress high-command was likely to take a call on the issue of reservation for Patels soon. “We have discussed various alternatives during today’s meeting (with Sibal). By tomorrow, the party high command is expected to take a call on those suggestions (about giving reservations to Patels), following which, we will engage in discussions with Hardik Patel,” he said earlier.
Hardik Patel (24), the face of the quota stir, recently met Congress’s Gujarat affairs in-charge Ashok Gehlot to discuss the quota demand. The issue of OBC quota for Patels remained unresolved during a meeting between Patidar representatives and state Congress leaders on October 30.
Trying to do a balancing act, the Congress had promised to offer reservation in jobs and education to the Patidars under the Economically Backward Classes (EBC) category, but not in the other backward class (OBC) group as demanded by the community. The party is trying to wean away the Patidars from the ruling BJP in the state. The community is believed to be a loyal vote bank of the saffron party and its numerical strength can tilt the scales in elections.