Completing Congress’ Gujarat Assembly Election triple-layered jigsaw, the Patidar community has officially joined hands with Congress as Patidar Aarakshan Aandolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel declared his support for the party in upcoming assembly elections. How beneficial will this support be for the incumbent Congress party?
After a politically dramatic gimmick week, Hardik Patel, the young Patidar community leader who is fighting for getting a slice of reservation pie for his community, declared PAAS’ support to Congress. But before he kissed and made up with Congress, he had given the party quite hard times by addressing rallies and declaring that “the Congress and BJP are the same” and that “Gujaratis, considered very clever, have not acted cleverly in the last 22 years (by supporting the BJP).” This was to keep Congress leaders on tenterhooks while displaying the ‘power and influence’ of his community in the state of Gujarat.
For Congress, their formula Gujarat for 2017 elections seems to have finally worked as they officially have support of Hardik Patel and his Patidar community, Alpesh Thakor and his Kshatriya community and support from Jignesh Mevani and his Dalit community. With all three communities officially on board, it is surely a relief for Congress, but that could be temporary for multiple reasons. First, that Patidars have very clear demand – giving them reservation quota and any party has their support. But considering the fact that 49% seats of the 50% reservation quota defined by the Indian Constitution’s framework, has already been granted off in Gujarat – there is literally no room for any more reservation, unless quota for other reserved communities are slashed off.
With Dalit and Kshatriya communities – who are already enjoying reservations, on their side, Congress cannot reduce their reserved quotas. As of now, the Congress has not revealed any contours of how Patidars would get reservations without pissing off the Kshatriyas and Dalits. And breaching the 50% reservation quota caps defined by Constitution is not possible legally – the whole situation seems to be deadlocked, unless Congress has a master plan that nobody else has thought of so far. This is almost like Congress has brought together communities who are fighting for the same slice of reservation pie and quite adversarial to each other.
Other major concern of the party with all the support is cross-voting. Patidars have been diehard supporters of BJP since 22 years, some or a lot of them might not opt for a sudden change over. And another risk that looms over cross-voting is the insecurity from OBC voters who are likely to be bothered about Patidars gaining their part of reservation quota if Congress comes into power. And can they woo the voters beyond Modi-magic? But on the other hand, Congress has gained a lot of traction from young voters because of the spree of economic disruptions faced by common people lately. But then, it has been all BJP since 22 years and people still have faith in the saffron party. Let’s see what flavours cooks up with the Gujarati political khichdi this year.