New Delhi: The Gujarat government on Friday announced a new 10% quota in jobs and college admissions for the economically backward among upper castes, in an attempt to defuse the agitation by the Patidar community.
The quota is for those in the “general" category with an annual family income of ₹ 6 lakh will be implemented from the next academic year.
The decision, taken at the core group meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Gujarat unit, in which the party’s national president Amit Shah was also present, comes after the recent reverses in the civic polls left the party jittery ahead of Assembly elections next year.
It assumes significance because members of the Patidar, or Patel, community in Gujarat, who have traditionally voted for the BJP, have been demanding other backward class (OBC) status to avail of government jobs and secure admission to colleges. With protests by the community, under the banner of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and Sardar Patel Group (SPG), turning violent, the quota demand had become a challenge for the state government.
“Our core group meeting, headed by national president Amit Shah, has decided to give 10% reservation for economically backward among general category. A notification will be issued on the Gujarat state formation day on 1 May, and economically backward classes (EBCs) among general category will be able to take the benefit of the reservation in education and jobs from the next academic year. Families having an annual income of ₹ 6 lakh or below will be eligible to avail the reservation. That means a family having an income up to ₹ 50,000 per month can take the benefit of the scheme," said Vijay Rupani, state BJP president.
The new 10% quota will take the state past the 50% reservation limit set by the Supreme Court, but senior BJP leaders said that they are ready to defend the decision in court.
Gujarat currently has 48% reservation which includes 7% reservation for Scheduled Castes, 14% for Scheduled Tribes and 27% for OBCs.
In 1992, the Supreme Court set a ceiling of 50% for all types of reservation while ruling that the Mandal Commission’s recommendation giving reservations to OBCs was constitutionally valid.
“We are very serious about this and we will fight it up to the apex court for reservation of economically backward among the general category," said Rupani.
Experts were quick to point out that the move stands little chance of getting past the apex court. “This may be the beginning of undoing reservation for socially and educationally backward groups. To the best of my knowledge, the Indian Constitution does not allow reservation based on economic criteria," said Sebastian Morris, professor of economics at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
The Hardik Patel-led PAAS rejected the Gujarat government’s announcement of 10% reservation for the economically backward among upper castes and called it a “lollipop" offered by the government to misguide the Patel community.
According to PAAS spokesperson Brijesh Patel, the original demand was to include Patels in the OBC fold or provide a separate quota for the community, just like Haryana did for Jats recently.
“This 10% reservation for EBCs is nothing but a lollipop by the government to misguide the Patel community. Hardik and PAAS never asked for it," Brijesh Patel said.
He said that the Patel community will stick to its original demand and will not accept the government’s current scheme of 10% reservation. “This announcement is a tactic by the BJP government to silence the Patel community. But, we will not get misled by this announcement. BJP will have to face consequences for playing such politics. PAAS will launch protests across Gujarat against this announcement."
Maulik Pathak of Mint and PTI contributed to the story.