AHMEDABAD — Patidar leader Hardik Patel Nov. 22 announced his support to the Congress in the Gujarat Assembly election after the party reached an understanding with him and promised job quotas to the agitating Patel community if it comes to power.
Hardik Patel made the much-awaited announcement on behalf of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti at a crowded press conference here and said the PAAS was formally accepting the "workable formula" advanced by the Congress.
"The Congress has accepted our demand for reservations with a formula that provides for benefits equivalent to OBCs constitutionally, without disturbing the present 49 percent quota for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs," Hardik Patel said.
"We are accepting the formula given to us by the Congress party."
Neither Hardik Patel nor the Congress gave details of the understanding reached on the reservation formula. Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, who had held discussions with Patel and other PAAS leaders, said Hardik Patel would reveal the details of the formula at an appropriate time.
Sibal merely said that his party's suggestions on providing quotas to Patidars in poll-bound Gujarat was "as per the Constitution."
But Finance Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley mocked the agreement calling it an exercise at "deception of each other."
"From the statements that I have seen so far, the Congress-Hardik club is one of mutual deception. The law of the land is very clear and that is laid down by the Supreme Court and only last week in the Rajasthan case it has been reaffirmed that the 50 percent cap cannot be breached."
"They can continue to mutually deceive each other and deceive the public by saying that we will devise a methodology by breaching the cap. Legally and constitutionally it is not possible as the law stands today," he said.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel lashed out at Hardik Patel for accepting the Congress formula on job quotas and supporting it in the Assembly polls, calling him a "fool."
"Fools have given a formula and fools have accepted it," a fuming Nitin Patel said. "I have not seen a more foolish person than Hardik. He is young boy. He may have got some love from the community but they are going to perish soon."
Flanked by other leaders of the PAAS, which has been campaigning for job quotas for the Patels, Hardik Patel brushed aside allegations by the ruling BJP that he was "a Congress agent."
"The Congress has accepted our demands though it is in opposition and has promised to even include it in its manifesto," he said.
"In this situation, when the BJP tortured our youth and slapped false cases, including those of sedition, there is nothing wrong in supporting the Congress."
"Let the BJP call me a Congress agent. I am nobody's agent, except that of the people. The BJP doesn't have a land title to Gujarat, six crore people own the state."
Hardik Patel said the Congress had said that if it won the Gujarat elections, it would pass a proposal for reservations under Articles 31-C and 46 of the Constitution.
He insisted that nowhere in the Constitution did it say that reservations of more than 50 percent could not be given. "The Supreme Court has only given suggestions on this. There is neither any law nor provision in the Constitution."
He said a new Gujarat government would talk to all stakeholders and set up a separate Commission.
"The Congress has promised that a survey would be carried out within Patel or any other forward community as per the provisions of the OBC Commission and on this basis parameters of economic, social, educational or employment would be used to extend reservation benefits to Patels and other forward communities," Hardik Patel said.
He claimed that since 1994, many states, including Gujarat, have given quotas beyond 50 percent and in states such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka such reservation had been in existence for 15 to 17 years.
Hardik Patel said he was accepting the formula not only on behalf of PAAS but after speaking to several community leaders and key religious organizations Khodaldham and Umiyadham. However, the heads of both these bodies denied having received any details about the Congress formula.