The Gujarat government announced on Friday 10% reservation for the economically backward among upper castes, a move apparently aimed at satisfying the influential Patidars who launched a violent agitation last year seeking quota benefits.

 

The decision, taken at a meeting of the BJP core committee headed by party president Amit Shah in Gandhinagar, will benefit all upper caste families with annual income less than Rs six lakh. It would be implemented by May 1.

 

The Patidar agitation has left the ruling BJP in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state with little room for maneuver, especially after the party suffered huge losses in last year’s panchayat polls.

 

However, the Anandiben Patel government’s decision is likely to run into a legal hurdle as the new quota will be in addition to the existing 49% reservation for OBCs, SCs, and STs. Under guidelines set by the Supreme Court, a state cannot provide reservation beyond 50% of its population.

 

The Patidar community has rubbished the move. “It’s a lollypop. It won’t stand in a court of law and is an attempt to weaken our agitation,” said Nikhil Savani, convenor of the Patidar Animal Andolan Samiti.

22-year-old Hardik Patel, who has been in jail since his arrest in October, has led the Patidar community protests for the reservation that have often led to violent clashes in the past year.

Last year, a similar quota for the economically backward was introduced in another BJP-ruled state, Rajasthan.

 

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