With Friday's move to introduce 10 percent reservation for economically backward classes (EBC), the Gujarat government is poised to join the league of at least half a dozen states facing legal challenges for breaching the supreme court cap on quota.
In a bid to placate the agitating Patidar community for reservation in government jobs and educational courses, Gujarat government announced the 10 percent quota for EBCs. This was promptly rejected by Hardik Patel's Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS).
They claim that breaching the 50 percent cap on quota fixed by the apex court, will be questioned legally. Patidar leaders see this belated move as a plan to weaken their demand for OBC status. BJP which has been ruling Gujarat for 20 years have been on the back foot following reverses in civic body polls, especially in rural areas. The Congress party have made impressive gains in BJP strongholds in the polls held last year.
The leadership was quick to gauge the fact that the influential Patidars, who till last year formed their largest support base had deserted the BJP.
Surprisingly Gujarat is the third BJP ruled state to introduce quotas in excess of Supreme Court directed ceiling of 50 percent. After its verdict on Indra Sawhney Vs Union of India case in 1992 or better known as Mandal case, a number of states have tried to circumvent this judgement.
But none has succeeded and the cases are dragging in the court. Vasundhara Raje government's move to introduce five percent quota to special category of backwards that included Gurjars and another 14 per cent quota to economically backward classes in Rajasthan has striking similarity to Anandiben Patil government's decision. Raje had introduced the the quota to pacify the agitating Gurjar, while Patel wanted to contain the fall out of Patidar movement . But Raje's decision was stayed by the Rajasthan high court citing that it violates the top court's order.
The decsion of the late YSR Reddy led Andhra Pradesh government's decision to allow five percent reservation for backward Muslims also got a thumbs down, although the supreme court allowed four percent quota which will come in the ambit of 50 percent, till the the final verdict comes out.
Now Telangana's ruling party TRS is facing another dilemma that it cannot implement their promise of 12 percent quota for backward Muslim community, in the election manifesto. If the government decides to implement it, the decision will be challenged in the court. Earlier decisions of the Karnataka and Odisha state governments also faced the same fate.
Haryana's BJP government is also trying to overcome the quota issue. It introduced a Bill to allow Jat and five other communities in the state under backward classes 'C' category, which was already questioned in the court. Though court did not take up the matter since the Act was not notified. The fate of the decision will also hinge on Supreme Court. But Haryana government has announced that it will approach the Union Government to put the state law in the 9th Schedule of the constitution, which provide the protection from legal scrutiny.
Tamil Nadu has introduced 69 percent reservation in the state and succeeded in including it in the 9th schedule of the Constitution. But it has been challenged and the final verdict yet not come. Gujarat may also tread the same path, since its closeness to the Centre. But they cannot evade a legal scrutiny, even if they manage a Tamil Nadu model.
But for Anandiben Patel it is a fight for existence, since the state is going for polls next year. The wrath of the Patidars was reflected in the civic polls, last year.
Congress is trying to woo OBC community and trying to revive its fortunes in the state. Inner party problems- read the rivalry between the Chief Minister Anandiben and BJP national president Amit Shah also escalating, will also be a worry that must have forced the ruling party's hand. Last year the state had witnessed violent protests by Hardik Patel led PAAS unsettling BJP in its show piece state.
Hardik and five of his aides have been in jail for almost 200 days. Three were released on bail on Thursday.
To add to this, Gujarat has witnessed another set of protests by Alpesh Thokar, an OBC leader. His demand is that the existing quota should not be touched. Thokar, many say has been propped up by Anandiben to check mate Hardik. Some analysts says he is a Congress find.