Patel worry for Gujarat CM

A massive rally of the Patel community in Surat yesterday to press for reservation has unnerved chief minister Anandiben Patel, who has asked party workers to reach out to the protesting leaders.

By Basant Rawat
  • Published 19.08.15
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Anandiben Patel

Ahmedabad, Aug. 18: A massive rally of the Patel community in Surat yesterday to press for reservation has unnerved chief minister Anandiben Patel, who has asked party workers to reach out to the protesting leaders.

With civic elections due in October, the slogan that was raised in the diamond city was: " Anamat Nahi to Vote Nahi (No reservation, no vote)." For the past two decades, the BJP has enjoyed the unwavering support of the Patel or Patidar community who makes up about 20 per cent of Gujarat's population and are powerful players in the diamond, textiles and real estate business.

The Patels are now demanding to be included under the category of Other Backward Classes, which would entitle them to a 27 per cent quota in education and government jobs, arguing that the majority in the community are poor.

But leaders of the OBCs - 146 communities, which make up 54 per cent of the state's population - have threatened counter-protests if the Patels are included. "Any move to include the Patel community in the OBC category will not be tolerated," said Jagdish Thakor, a former Congress MP.

The president of the Gujarat Thakor Sena, Alpesh Thakor, said he had already planned a token fast on August 23 at Ahmedabad's Gandhi Ashram. "I will be sitting on fast to warn the government that any move to give our share to the Patel community will have serious repercussions," he said.

To add to the government's worries, upper caste Brahmins and Kshatriyas have also raised the demand for reservation on the ground of economic backwardness.

A group of Patel leaders had yesterday met a committee of ministers, led by health minister Nitin Patel, to discuss their demand for OBC status but were told it is ruled out.

The community is preparing for a mega rally in Ahmedabad on August 25. "We want to mobilise all our resources to make the rally a big success, after which we will decide our future course of action," said P.C. Patel, a community leader who met the seven-member government committee.

Leaders of the OBC communities have threatened to teach the government a lesson in the coming civic and panchayat elections if they accept the Patels' demand. "It will not be fair to our boys who cannot compete with them," the Thakor Sena chief said.

Asked how the government intended to resolve the reservation demands, BJP spokesperson I.K. Jadeja said: "We are really concerned about the situation, which may further worsen. The chief minister has asked us to reach out to Patel leaders and others demanding reservation. We will do our level best to convince them. We hope we will be able to work out some strategy."

The Congress, which has been out of power in the state for two decades, is enjoying the government's discomfiture.