Do not resort to violence, PM appeals to agitators

Clash over quota: Patel agitation puts BJP central leadership in awkward situation

Do not resort to violence, PM appeals to agitators

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday appealed for restoring peace in Gujarat which is on the boil due to agitation launched by powerful Patel community demanding reservation under the OBC category.

In a special televised reach out in Gujarati, Modi, who was chief minister of the state for 12 years before becoming the prime minister,  said, “In the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, the way violence has been resorted to as a tool....I appeal to all brothers and sisters of Gujarat that they should not resort to violence. The only ‘mantra’ must be ‘Shanti’ (peace)”.

Interestingly, on a day when the state witnessed agitation, the Union cabinet chaired by the prime minister gave its approval for including “Sipai” and “Patni Jamat or Turk Jamat” (all Muslims) in the central list of OBCs of Gujarat. Besides, two other castes were included in the central list of OBCs of Uttarakhand, both on the recommendation of National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).

Despite the prime minister’s appeal, the clash between the agitators, led by 22-year-old Hardik Patel, and security forces resulted in the death of eight people and the state government was forced to bring the Army to restore normalcy.

The movement has come as a challenge to the BJP dispensation at the state and the Centre with Hardik Patel openly stating that the powerful community’s support to the ruling party during the 2017 Assembly polls will be conditional – which is only if the government brings them under OBC.

The Patel stir has come to haunt the prime minister individually as critics question Modi’s decade in Gujarat with social faultlines coming to the fore only a year after he shifted to Delhi and installed Anandiben Patel and two ministers Nitin and Saurabh from the community which dominates in business as well.

The Kadva and Leuva sub-castes, which are usually at loggerheads, comprise Patels. One of the reasons for the community to hit the streets, opposition parties said, was also that business opportunities in the state were not that rosy, allowing flaring up of caste aspirations.

The agitation has put the BJP central leadership in an awkward situation since president Amit Shah, too, belongs to the state. The party has officially not reacted so far to the tense situation which has come before crucial Bihar Assembly polls.

Rival JD(U) and RJD leaders were quick to cash in on the social unrest in Gujarat by lending support to Patels’ reservation demand. “It is now established that the BJP is anti-backward and anti-social justice. They have always been opposed to reservation for the poor and downtrodden,” RJD veteran leader Lalu Prasad told reporters in Patna.

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