Upper castes to jointly fight Gujarat civic polls

Ahmedabad, Oct 27 (IANS) Two leading groups leading a campaign demanding job and education quotas for the Patel community will fight the coming civic polls in Gujarat under a common banner: Vikas Manch.

The decision was taken by jailed Hardik Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and Sardar Patel Group (SPG), the two organisations leading the nearly four-month-old agitation.

The two groups have resolved to contest the municipal corporation as well as panchayat elections together.

The Vikas Manch, according to young Patel leaders, will not be restricted to those from only their community but have representation from all castes not covered under the benefits of reservation in the state.

Gujarat has 27 percent quota for the OBCs, including 12 Muslim communities, 14 percent for Scheduled Tribes and seven percent for Dalits.

The decision to float the third front was taken at a meeting called by SPG convener Lalji Patel at Patel Wadi in Visnagar town of Mehsana district on Monday, sources close to the development said on Tuesday.

Leaders of various upper castes, other than Patels, attended the gathering.

The Vikas Manch will field upper caste candidates in the local body elections of November 22 and 29 whose results will be out by December 2, according to a Patel community representative who was at the meeting.

The decision to constitute the third front from Mehsana district is considered significant given that the north Gujarat district has been a stronghold of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for long.

When the BJP had only two MPs in 1984, one of them, A.K. Patel, was from Mehsana.

Mehsana also happens to be the original home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and BJP president Amit Shah, besides seniormost state cabinet minister Nitin Patel.

The first signal of dissent brewing among the rank and file of the BJP in the district came last week when former chairman of the Visnagar municipality, Rupalbhai Patel, quit the BJP along with 1,500 party workers to express support to the pro-quota agitation.

He also opposed the police action against Patel leaders.

Informed sources said the Vikas Manch would field “winnable dissident BJP leaders” and also those from the Congress who backed the cause of reservation for those other than OBCs, Dalits and tribals.

The BJP, which controls 150 taluka panchayats, 42 municipalities and 30 district panchayats, is seeking to garner the votes of the OBCs, Dalits as well as tribals to counter the Vikas Manch and the Congress.

The state BJP has entrusted the responsibility of holding small group meetings in villages and towns to its leaders from communities that enjoy reservations in jobs and education.

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