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Congress today gave three options to Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) whose convener Hardik Patel has set a commitment to the OBC quota as a pre-condition to support the party in the assembly polls slated for next month. The options, which the PAAS kept undisclosed as of now, were proposed by senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal at the meeting here which began 11:30 PM last night and ended at about 2 AM today. PAAS members said they would consult their leaders and legal experts before taking a decision. The 13-member delegation was led by Patel's key aide Dinesh Bambhania. Patel did not participate in the meeting, held against the backdrop of a November 7 deadline given by him to the Congress to clear its stand on the quota issue. Paridars, who form a chunk of the BJP's vote bank, have been demanding reservation under OBC category in government jobs and education in Gujarat. According to Bambhania, Congress leaders presented various documents, Constitutional provisions and Supreme Court judgements while offering the three different options to Patels. "We have been given three options by the Congress party on how to provide reservation to our community in educational institutions and government jobs. Congress kept in mind that we do not want to disturb the existing reservation system for OBCs, SCs and STs," Bambhania, also the convener of PAAS, said after the meeting. He, however, did not divulge the details of the options. "The options that have been given will be kept confidential till we discuss it with Hardik, social leaders of the community and legal experts. We will then put them before our community. If the community accepts them, we will convey it accordingly to the Congress party," Bambhania said. Though Congress as well as PAAS remained tight-lipped about the options offered to the agitators, a senior leader claimed that Congress has found ways to provide legally valid reservation to them. "It is not impossible to go beyond the 49 per cent cap. There are ways to do so, and the options are given after analysing several aspects as well as court judgements about the same.
We have found something which will surprise everyone. Just wait and watch," claimed the leader who is know about the options. Bambhania added that the next meeting with Congress will be held within the next 2-3 days and it will be the final one on this issue. The PAAS convener said the meeting took place in a "very cordial atmosphere". While praising Congress for engaging in such an exercise of digging out various facts and figures related to reservation system, Bambhania slammed the ruling BJP, saying the party never even tried to engage in such exercise with the PAAS during the last two years. He said the reservation offer under the Economically Backward Class (EBC) was not discussed as it is not Constitutionally valid. Bambhania was referring to the Gujarat Congress' earlier promise that a 20 per cent reservation under the EBC will be given to non-reserved communities including Patels if the party came to power. Himmatsinh Gujjar, who was part of the Gujjar quota stir in Rajasthan and extended his community's support to PAAS for their fight for reservation, was also part of the PAAS team at the meeting. He told reporters that it is "not impossible" to grant reservation beyond the 49 per cent cap set by the Supreme Court. "Today's discussion revolved around how Patidars can be given constitutionally valid reservation beyond 49 per cent. It is not impossible. More than 50 per cent quota is still in practice in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh," claimed Gujjar. Addressing a press conference, Sibal the meeting has "brought" hope that something can be worked out. "We have discussed all the aspects and will do all the things (to provide reservation to Patidar community) as per the Constitution," the Congress leader said. He said they would again meet in the next two-three days. "We expect that the matter will become clear in two to three days," he added. The PAAS members met Sibal to discuss modalities of providing reservation to Patidars if voted to power in the upcoming Assembly polls in Gujarat. Hardik Patel had earlier set a condition that he would support the Congress in the polls only if the party committed itself to allotting reservation in education and government jobs to his community. The polling for the two-phase elections in the state will take place on December 9 and 14 and votes will be counted on December 18.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)