Gujarat September 27 | BJP government today took a very decisive step to end two year long patidar agitation by approving Aayog for unreserved segments, prob panel, and state cabinet discussed withdrawal of cases against patidars. CM Vjay Rupani chaired meeting today at the state capital.
The government also announced another commission on the lines of the OBC Commission enabling upper castes to petition it if any caste is seeking a favourable status.
The announcements were made by Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel after the weekly State Cabinet meeting.
Reacting to this, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) led by firebrand young leader Hardik Patel said the community’s key demands would continue, though this might be a good initiative.
Close on the heels of yesterday marathon talk with patidar leaders and government led by Deputy CM Nitin Patel, Bharatiya Janata Party inched forward in its effort to break the back of the Patel agitation in election-bound Gujarat by firming up the contours of a three-point deal with a conglomeration of Patidar outfits, including Hardik Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti.
But, according to sources, Bharatiya Janata Party’s attempts to win back Gujarat’s powerful patidars seem to have hit a rocky patch on last Tuesday as the saffron party’s much-hyped meeting with representatives of the community in Gandhi Nagar did not go as planned.
The BJP’s last-minute decision to invite patidar leader Hardik Patel to the meeting – at which they were planning to discuss the various demands of the community, which has been disgruntled with the saffron party since 2015 – seemed to backfire. While Hardik Patel came out of the meeting declaring that his Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti would continue its agitation against the BJP until it accepts their key demand for reservations in government jobs, his supporters created a ruckus at Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel’s press conference after the meeting. They stopped him from speaking to the media.
This setback at the beginning of the BJP’s three-week long exercise to woo the patels before Gujarat goes to polls later this year comes just a day after Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi embarked on an effort to reach out to the disgruntled community.
The patidars have traditionally been loyal BJP supporters but turned bitter towards the party after an agitation demanding reservations and Other Backward Class status for the community ended with riots and a violent police crackdown in August 2015.
Hardik Patel, whose Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti spearheaded the protests, emerged as a powerful leader of the community at the time and has since vowed to ensure the party’s defeat in Gujarat.
The outcome of the BJP meeting on Tuesday put a question mark on the popularity of two yatras the party had planned next month. The yatras, to be led by Nitin Patel and Gujarat BJP President Jitubhai Vaghani, both from the patidar community, will pass through various Patidar-dominated areas in the state over more than two weeks and will culminate in a massive rally on October 15. While the first yatra will begin on October 1 from Karamsad, the birthplace of Sardar Patel, the second yatra will start on October 2 from Porbandar, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi.
Retaining the support of the Patels, who account for 14% of the state’s population, will be crucial for the BJP as the community is believed to control the results of about 50 of 182 assembly seats in Gujarat and influence the outcome in another 30.
(Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior journalist based at Ahmedabad and also Editor of Gujarat Siyasat)