The Gujarat government’s decision to provide a 27 per cent reservation to Other Backward Classes in local self-governing bodies evoked a mixed reaction on Tuesday, with Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and other BJP leaders welcoming the move, while the Congress dubbed the measure as an attempt to “cheat” OBC community members.
Mr Patel and state BJP chief CR Paatil said the decision was aimed at keeping all sections of the society together.
Congress legislative party leader Amit Chavda, however, called the decision — taken on basis of the Justice Jhaveri Commission report — as the BJP’s attempt to “mislead and cheat” the OBC community members and challenged ruling party leaders for a public debate on the issue.
Gujarat Aam Aadmi Party chief Isudan Gadhvi said the decision was taken only after the OBC community put up a united front on the reservation issue and because the BJP feared losing their support in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP has always made efforts to move forward by keeping people from different castes, communities and religions together. The decision to provide a 27 per cent reservation to the OBC community in local bodies is in direction of the same effort,” Mr Patel said.
The Chief Minister was addressing a joint press conference along with Mr Paatil at the state BJP headquarters “Kamalam” where the decision was welcomed with bursting of crackers.
Mr Patel said arrangements have also been made to ensure that non-OBC communities are not affected by the reservation measure.
Mr Paatil thanked the state government and the Chief Minister for the decision and said 52 per cent of the population in Gujarat belongs to the OBC community.
“The Gujarat government has taken the decision to reserve 27 per cent seats for OBCs (in local bodies). As much as 52 per cent of the population in Gujarat belongs to OBCs, and out of the 156 BJP MLAs, 50 are from the community. This clearly means the party takes both OBCs and other communities together,” said the state BJP president.
“The decision has been taken as per Supreme Court guidelines. At the same time, efforts have been taken to ensure that existing reservations for SC/ST communities are not affected,” Mr Paatil said.
He said the quota move will please as many as 134 castes falling under the OBC category and they will be happy to finally get their political rights.
Congress’s Mr Chavda said the BJP government dragged its feet on forming a commission to deliberate on the OBC quota issue and then make recommendation, and then took time in implementing the Jhaveri panel report.
It took a massive agitation by the OBC community for the government to take a decision on the quota issue, the opposition MLA said.
The government scrapped the 10 per cent reservation for OBCs in local bodies after the Supreme Court’s 2021 order in an attempt to obliterate the political existence of OBCs from local bodies, Chavda alleged.
“The manner in which the minister (Rushikesh Patel, who is also government spokesperson) made the announcement shows the government’s intention was not right. The Supreme Court’s guidelines and the commission recommendation have not been followed, and the government was misleading and cheating the people (of OBC community),” he claimed.
“I invite BJP leaders to discuss the (OBC reservation) issue and the report of the commission and SC guidelines,” he added.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Mr Gadhvi alleged that the BJP government was planning to eliminate SC/ST/OBC reservations, and there was an attempt to suppress the report of the Jhaveri Commission.
“The BJP government hatched a conspiracy over the years to eliminate the 27 per cent OBC reservation. But fortunately, OBCs showed unity, people from the community came forward, held small and big meetings to expose this conspiracy of the government,” Mr Gadhvi said.