NEW DELHI: The Congress is handling the Patel quota issue in Gujarat with extreme care, having learnt from its experiments in Haryana, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. According to sources, while a 2013 government order to provide quota to Jats in Haryana was struck down by the high court, a similar proposal for the Marathas in Maharashtra and the Gujjars in Rajasthan did not bring the Congress any electoral dividend. Rather, the party lost votes of the two communities in both the national and the assembly elections.
Congress managers are keen to enlist the support of the Patels, who want the party to promise them reservation in jobs and education in Gujarat. But AICC strategists are wary of making such promises.
AICC sources said dealing with the quota issue was like handling a double-edged sword. “Being in power, the party has to deal with pressure from a particular community, face agitations and listen to the affected party,” a senior AICC functionary said.
“But the Congress behaves responsibly even when it is in opposition as it has the experience of dealing with the quota issue and its implications over several decades,” said the functionary, adding central leaders would caution state counterparts in case they were making a faulty move.
This explains why the Gujarat Congress is only talking about a 20 percent economically backward category (EBC) quota for the Patels, not OBC reservations. Party sources said EBC quota was the way forward but it has not found much favour because of votebank politics and deep social divisions.
Further, for a party that projects itself as pro-development, quotas for a particular community risks alienating the middle class that is opposed to the idea per se, the sources added.