Ahmedabad: The fate of the Patidar quota agitation hangs in balance with its leader Hardik Patel and his supporters saying that the issue is over and they now want to focus on problems of farmers and jobs for youth.
However, many from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), headed by Patel, want to continue their fight for quota for the Patidar community in government jobs and education. Patel, who first came into the limelight with the Patidar quota stir in 2015, joined the Congress here last week in the presence of party president Rahul Gandhi. The 25-year-old firebrand leader claims "the issue of reservation is over now". "How can you talk about reservation when you have already been granted 10 per cent quota benefits. Now my focus is on raising issues concerning farmers and youth. I will make people aware of the BJP's wrong policies and of the Congress's vision," he said. Patel admitted that at the beginning of his agitation, he had demanded reservation for the Patidar community under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category and later, stressed on quota under the Economically Backward Classes (EBC). "Now, my priority is to ensure that the 10 per cent EBC quota gets implemented properly.
Talking about reservation despite having already got it is definitely politics, and I don't want to indulge in such politics," said Patel, who is keen on contesting the Lok Sabha polls. His close aide and PAAS core committee member Geeta Patel said now their main demand is withdrawal of cases against those booked for violence and other offences during the quota stir in 2015. However, PAAS organisation in-charge Dilip Sabva said the fight was not yet over as their main demand of reservation for Patidars under the OBC category remained unfulfilled. "The EBC quota was also granted by the erstwhile Anandiben Patel government in Gujarat. But, it was struck down by the high court. What if the Centre's move (of EBC 10 per cent quota) also hits a roadblock?" Sabva asked. He said he was not happy with the EBC quota. "If someone wants to put aside the issue to contest polls, it is his personal choice. I am not concerned about somebody taking a political stand on the issue," he said. Another PAAS leader Dinesh Bambhania also said the agitation cannot be over till the time Patidars are not granted reservation under the OBC category. "Since Hardik has now joined a political party and wants to fight the Lok Sabha polls, he is saying that the issue is over," Bambhania said. He added that jailed PAAS convener and Patel's close aide Alpesh Kathiriya is the "new leader" of their organisation and he will lead the agitation for their core demand. "Those from PAAS, who want to go with Hardik, can join the Congress. The remaining team of PAAS will work under the leadership of Kathiriya. All of us will follow whatever Kathiriya says," Bambhania said.