The central BJP leadership may have sought to set at rest murmurs among the Patidars that the community was being ignored by their “alma mater” party by foisting a new Patel chief minister in Gujarat, but the young fighters for quota are far from satisfied.
The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), launched by the reservation agitation spearhead Hardik Patel, has revived its movement with a demand that chief minister Bhupendra Patel’s government withdraw cases against youngsters from the community.
The revival of the movement does not have Hardik Patel, now the working president of the Gujarat unit of the Congress, as the lead. In fact, the PAAS is learnt to have parted ways with him ever since the February elections to the local bodies where the young Patidar brigade sided with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to give it the status of the main Opposition in the Surat Municipal Corporation with 27 seats. With a zero by the Congress.
The PAAS, which represents a powerful community that accounts for 14 per cent of Gujarat’s population, has demanded that the state government withdraw 250 criminal cases lodged against Patidar youth. The withdrawal of cases was promised several times earlier.
The state police had lodged these cases against Patidars who participated in the 2015 reservation agitation launched by Hardik Patel. The current PAAS convenor, Alpesh Kathiriya from Surat, has also demanded that the government should immediately withdraw four sedition cases slapped on Hardik Patel and him.
Various denominations of Patidars have been meeting often over the past few months — it is unusual for Kadva and Leuva Patels to speak in one voice — with concerns about the alleged short shrift given to the community.
The BJP has sought to assuage this feeling by getting a Patidar as the chief minister and dropped a Jain, Vijay Rupani, though this doesn’t seem to have cut much ice with the community.
The PAAS, which represents the younger lot in the community, had earlier this week convened a meeting in state capital Gandhinagar that was attended by nearly 100 members, including aggressive leaders Dinesh Bambhania and Dharmik Malaviya.
They have set a deadline for the Bhupendra Patel government to act — October 31, birth anniversary of Sardar Patel — or face an intense agitation yet again.
“We will be giving a memorandum and an ultimatum to the government to resolve the issues by October 31,” Alpesh Kathiriya, convenor of PAAS, confirmed. “As many as 14 innocent Patidar youngsters were killed during the reservation agitation in 2015. We want government jobs for the kin of every single deceased person. The government had promised to withdraw cases against agitators, but not less than 250 cases are yet hanging fire.”
He said the four sedition cases the state government had slapped on him and Hardik Patel “must also be withdrawn”.
The PAAS has renewed its demand for an economic backwardness survey among the Patidars and the so-called economically backward higher castes to decide on their inclusion in the quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
Alpesh Kathiriya pointed out that the Parliament had recently passed the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, allowing the states to identify OBC.
“Before deciding whether Patidars are eligible for reservation under OBC category, the state needs to conduct a survey,” Kathiriya said. “We want the government to order a survey of backwardness and then take a call about the inclusion of Patidars in the OBC list.”
The assertion of Patidar youth yet again in Gujarat is an issue that the Patel government may have to address sooner than later. The BJP had burnt its fingers in the local body elections in 2015 and subsequently in 2017, when it attempted to handle the Hardik Patel stir with a strong hand.