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Members of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti met Gujarat Congress leaders today but no agreement could be reached on the assurance about quotas for the Patels, a precondition set by PAAS leader Hardik Patel for extending support to the party in the Assembly polls. After the meeting at the Congress's state headquarters which lasted three hours, PAAS leaders said they will hold another round of discussion by November 7 to resolve the issue. Hardik Patel, who skipped the meeting, said the next round of negotiations will be the final. "If we have been fighting for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for two-and-a-half years, then waiting for a few days is no a big deal. But the next meeting on the issue will be the last and final," he told reporters. Hardik Patel had last Saturday threatened to disrupt Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's proposed rally in Surat if the main opposition party in Gujarat did not make clear how it will provide quotas to the Patidar community. However, today he said he will not oppose Rahul Gandhi's rally. Gandhi is scheduled to campaign in poll-bound Gujarat from November 1 to 3.
Patel said he will take the final call on meeting Gandhi after consulting the core committee of the PAAS. The ruling BJP, meanwhile, accused Patel and the Congress of misleading the Patidar community with the latter's claim that the opposition party has accepted all the demands of the community. "The main demand of the PAAS and Hardik Patel was reservation under OBC quota. The Congress and PAAS should clarify if the Congress will give reservations under OBC quota to the community," deputy chief minister Nitin Patel said, reacting to today's meeting. The Congress has been reluctant about promising quotas to the influential patidar community under the other backward classes category and offered them reservation under a separate grouping--economically backward classes. After the meeting, the PAAS members who met Congress leaders told reporters that the party agreed on four of their five main demands. "As far as the issue of reservation is concerned, we have decided to meet again to discuss its technical and legal aspects so as to ensure that it is technically and legally sound," said PAAS convener Alpesh Kathiriya. Congress agreed to the demand for formation of special investigation team (SIT), if voted to power, to investigate alleged atrocities against the members of the community during the PAAS rally in Ahmedabad on August 25-26, 2015, senior Congress leader Siddharth Patel said. He said legal action will be taken against those held guilty. It also promised withdrawal of all police cases against PAAS members, including on the serious charge of sedition. If voted to power, the Congress government will make an ex-gratia payment of Rs 35 lakh to the kin of those killed during the quota agitation and a government job to one member of their families, Patel said. The Congress will form a commission for general category communities and provide it with a corpus of Rs 2,000 crore for education, skill development and self-employment, he said. "The Congress discussed reservation in detail and we have decided to get more details on how to make it possible under constitutional provisions," Siddharth Patel said, adding the matter will be resolved at their next meeting. The Congress leaders who met the PAAS team included state party chief Bharatsinh Solanki.