The Gujarat government may have finally blinked and moved closer to Patidar-agitation leader Hardik Patel's demand for reservations for the politically-powerful Patel community. Hardik, who was to have launched a 'Reverse Dandi, in a throwback to Mahatma Gandhi's iconic protest against the British a century ago, has reportedly shelved this plan in lieu of a guaranteed meeting with state CM, Anandiben Patel, on Monday.
The state government, until now, had held that such reservations were constitutionally impossible, but a threat of heightened violence and a blow to the BJP's political image may have forced the Gujarat government's hand.
According to the Business Standard, the agitating Patidars Anamat Andolan Samiti have "postponed" the proposed 390-km long 'reverse Dandi Yatra' by two days.
"We decided to honour the government's invitation for talks in (state capital) Gandhinagar on Monday evening. However, if the outcome is not satisfactory, the 'reverse Dandi Yatra' will be launched on Tuesday," PAAS state convenor Hardik Patel warned here on Sunday.
The Times of India adds that the state government has agreed to give a package similar to what the Gurjars in Rajasthan recently got by the Rajasthan Government.
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had approved the introduction of the Rajasthan Special Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutes in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Bill, 2015, in the forthcoming session of the Assembly. The Bill pertains to providing 5 per cent special reservation to the Gurjar community. The bill also sought to provide 14 per cent reservation to economically weaker sections of forward castes.
Apart from a special package to Patidars, Gujarat government will also facilitate a fund amounting to Rs. 750 crores for education of economically backward people belonging to all the communities in Gujarat.
In an earlier interview to HuffPost India, Hardik Patel had suggested that Gandhi wouldn't have shied away from violence for social justice, had he been alive today.
Hardik's decision to adopt Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent method of agitation comes only a few days after the young leader told his followers to take up swords in pursuit of their goals. "Forget garlands, take out swords," he told a gathering in Delhi on Sunday, The Indian Express reported. "The way to fight here is with swords."
Patel's overnight emergence and audacious criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his own turf has stunned the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Gujarat as well as the NDA government at the centre.
Hardik has also warned the BJP government in Gujarat of defeat in the 2017 polls if his demands are not met. "Lotus will not bloom in the mud, it will never bloom. If you will talk about our interest then only we will nurture your lotus," the activist said in his rally on August 25.