Three young men representing three social communities have queered the pitch for the ruling party in Gujarat, their inclinations will be decisive for Gujarat Assembly election polls in 2017. There is a perceptible change in mood in Gujarat, but will that paint a merry picture for the NCP or will the 22-year ‘BJP tradition’ persist?
Seems like the spell casted by Narendra Modi over the state of Gujarat since over 12 years as the Chief Minister of the state has finally been broken, and even ordinary common men are questioning the record of ‘development’ – better famed as ‘vikas’. Not just questioning, people are scrutinising the tall promises made by Modi, which have remained unfulfilled – this change of mood is something very new in the state of Gujarat, it has never happened, not at least against Modi, not in 22 years. The BJP government cannot escape through the agrarian distress caused across not just Gujarat but the entire country.
Failing businesses, growing unemployment, inconsistent educational system, attacks on minority communities, corruption, failed Gujarat model of development; and Gujarat – known for its infrastructure, has seen potholes on superhighways and expressways. All these factors have directly affected, or rather disrupted daily lives of common man. But all these hasn’t happened in just a day, or a week, or a month – why is there a sudden wave of change? The answer blows in the wind of Gujarat, ask anyone – civil servant, academics, shopkeepers or rural folks – they all will say that it is because the three young men representing different social communities have blown up the haze of goodness and tapped into people’s discontent against the ruling party’s tactics.
It was 24-year-old Hardik Patel; who pelted the first stone at BJP government in 2015, seeking reservation for his economically struggling community of Patidars. It was Alpesh Thakor, 41-year-old founder of OSS Ekta Manch and Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena, who took the flag to protect the OBC reservation quota. It was the 36-year-old lawyer and activist Jignesh Mevani who mobilised Dalits across the state to take a stand against violence against them, after 4 Dalits were publicly stripped and fogged in Una in 2016. All the three men are outrageous and their angst against the ruling party is getting stronger, but balancing and unifying them will be a tough nut to crack for Congress. They are toughed to be voiced together.
Patel has been demanding reservations for Patidars and on other hand, Thakor will not allow any tampering with the OBC quota. While OBC community covers up 40% of Gujarat’s 60 million population, Patidars come up with 12% votes. The current reservations comprise of 27% quota for OBC, 15% for the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and 7% for Scheduled Cast (SC); that sums up to 49% reservations which is just under the 50% reservation cap set by Supreme Court. There is no room for extra Patidar reservations, giving them reservation will cut down OBC quotas. But Congress has offered 20% reservation in jobs and education to the Economically Backward Classes (EBCs), including upper caste communities such as the influential Patidars, in addition to the existing 49% reservation to SCs, STs and OBCs, if voted to power in Gujarat.
There will be legal hurdles in implementing such promises, and if came in power, Congress will have to keep its promise to Patidaars in any situation – or face farce situations. But they cannot jeopardies their chances by agonising the 40% OBC mass. Getting special quota for EBC is tough because the Constitution of India doesn’t promote ‘economic equality’, which means some Congress will have to come up with some other criteria of backwardness – which can be done with Parliamentary support. Will they have that? Not sure, the focus seems to be on winning the reign of Gujarat as of now. The bigger battle here, is the one that has to be fought by whosoever wins Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017; the bigger battle of winning Gujarat will begin after winning elections, the real game is yet to begin.