Go by conscience on quota, Hardik tells Patels

Ahmedabad, May 2 (IANS) Reservation agitation spearhead Hardik Patel has written to his community to make up its mind whether to accept the Anandiben Patel-led Gujarat government’s offer of 10 percent quota to economically weaker sections among the upper castes, including Patels.

In a letter written from Lajpore Jail in Surat, where he is in custody since October 2015 under various criminal charges, including sedition, he said: “It is for the community to take a call whether it wants to be part of OBC or whether it is satisfied with reservations under EBC.”

His Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) has rejected the 10 percent quota, describing it as a “lollipop” to the community.

It launched a protest under the banner Swarnim Lollipop Mahotsav (golden lollipop festival), and distributed candies among the people to mark their protest.

Taking a dig at the state government, Hardik Patel’s letter says no more than 20 percent of the efforts so far have been to solve the issue.

“The remaining 80 percent efforts appear to have been directed towards breaking the agitation. I urge the community not to be under any fear or duress of anyone but decide what is in its best interest.”

Stating that he was willing to remain in jail for life in the interest of the community, he said: “If 1.8 lakh community members decide to press for OBC status, then I am open to continuing the agitation. The community needs to decide what is in its best interest.”

Addressed to Mansukh Savani, co-convenor of PAAS in Surat, the letter surprisingly carries a date of April 26, 2016, three days ahead of the Bharatiya Janata Party announcing its intention of bringing an ordinance for 10 percent reservations to EBCs in government jobs and educational institutions.

He also reiterated his demand for withdrawal of cases against the Patel agitators.

“Whether the cases are new or old does not matter but one thing is clear, no agreement can be reached at the cost of Patel youth and their interests,” Hardik Patel wrote.

Meanwhile, Laljibhai Patel, the leader of another Patel quota stir group, Sardar Patel Group, on Monday sought to play safe and said he too would abide by the decision of community elders, agitation leaders and the Patel community whether to accept the 10 percent reservation.

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