By Yash Shukla
With Hardik Patel, the leader of the Patidar Anmat Andolan Samiti, joining hands with the Congress party in the upcoming Gujarat elections, alarm bells have begun to ring in the leadership of the Bhartiya Janata Party. Hardik announced an alliance with the Congress party after Congress accepted the long-sought demand of Patidars for reservation in government jobs and colleges.
Rift between BJP and the Patels
Deputy Chief Minister and senior leader of the BJP, Nitin Patel, called Hardik a “fool” accepting a formula provided by “fools.” He also accused Hardik Patel of destroying the unity among Patels for the sake of elections and the hunger of power. He further castigated him, warning him not to invoke the name of Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi.
The Patels constitute one of the largest groups in Gujarat, having around 12 percent of the state population, and they have traditionally supported the BJP. However, the movement led by Hardik Patel, seeking reservation for Patels has severed the relations between the BJP and the Patel community. With the BJP taking action against Patidar leaders and invoking sedition charges against Hardik Patel, the relations touched a new low. With Hardik now announcing his support for the Congress party, along with leaders like Jignesh Mewani, the Congress party appears to have outwitted the BJP in courting the Patel vote bank.
Patidar woes and Congress’s ‘solution’ for it
However, one needs to critically analyse the demands of the Patidar community and the resultant, so-called, solution provided by the Congress party. Patels constitute 12 percent of the Gujarat population and it has been found that the lower strata among them are facing unemployment and poverty due to the deteriorating condition of agriculture and the lack of job formation, in general. However, our constitution provides reservation on the basis of caste, and not class. Therefore, it would be very a tough challenge for any government to provide reservation to communities like Patels, who belong to the so-called upper caste but are suffering on the basis of class.
Moreover, according to the verdict of the Supreme Court, reservation in any state must not exceed the 50 percent mark. In this case, the only solution seems to give reservation to Patels from the OBC (Other Backward Classes) quota, but no party dares risk antagonizing the OBC community by including Patels within the community. In that case, the solution provided by the Congress party is in line with what the governments in different states have provided to communities like Patels in their respective states.
The Rajasthan government had also attempted to give reservation to the Gujjar community by exceeding the quota from the 50 percent mark. Its decision was subsequently challenged in the Supreme Court and the government could not satisfactorily explain its case in the court, which caused it to lose the battle. Similar is the case in Haryana, where the Jat community has been demanding reservation on the basis of class and with successive governments giving false hopes to the community.
Courting the Patel vote bank?
Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who had been negotiating the solution with PAAS leader Hardik Patel, also did not reveal the exact details of the so-called solution and evaded every question regarding it. Hence, Hardik Patel’s decision to support the Congress party before the elections has, at best, nothing to do with the demands of the community. Instead, his decision can be seen from the perspective of pure politics, where leaders like Hardik Patel are giving false hopes to their community and engaging in ‘vote bank’ politics.
On the other hand, calling Hardik Patel a “fool” can potentially antagonise the whole Patidar community and further hurt the prospects of the BJP. At the same time, voters are not as gullible as the leaders leading them may believe them to be. In the short run, vote bank politics, and politics over reservations can help both the Congress party, as well as increase Hardik’s stature as a leader. In the long run, though, voters will definitely see through these nefarious schemes.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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