A sub-committee set up by Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel and led by government spokesperson and health minister Nitin Patel on Monday met 11 leaders of Sardar Patel Group (SPG), one of the agitating groups representing the Patidar (Patel) community, along with other community leaders.
What had begun as a stray rally in Mehsana district in July 2015 with youths from the Patel community led by Hardik Patel, convenor of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) demanding OBC status for the community citing lack of jobs is turning out to be a state-wide agitation with rallies being held in other parts of the state such as Surat, Vadodara, Saurashtra region and North Gujarat.
Commenting on the talks, Nitin Patel stated that the government has taken note of the communities' demands and will study it further.
"The government is with all communities and we will do the best that we can. We have taken note of their demands and we will study it well. We have held talks with three communities today. It is not appropriate to expect results from the very first such meeting. We will continue to hold talks with all communities and decide keeping in mind welfare of them all," Patel said.
However, SPG leaders maintained that the talks with the state government failed on Monday even as their expectations of a clear stand by the government could not be met. According to SPG, the talks revolved around issues over lack of proper education and employment, In its other demands, the Patidar community has sought for a 'Sardar Patel Board' for the development of the community by the state government and allotment of a minimum Rs 500 crore that would be used for scholarships and girl child education.
In what appeared as a divide-and-rule policy, the sub-committee held talks with only one of the two major Patidar community groups SPG even as PAAS remained uninvited for the meeting on Monday at Gandhinagar.
However, in a press briefing in Surat, where PAAS led a 5.5 km rally of over 1.5 million community members demanding OBC status, convenor Hardik Patel said that the group was not ready for talks and instead demanded a clear stand from the government.
"Only 5-10% of the community members are well-off while 90% are economically downtrodden. Most of the loans extended by state co-operative banks goes to the Patidar community. We do not expect to hold any talks with the state government. We just demand that Gujarat government should make its stand clear on the OBC status issue," Hardik Patel said. The rally in Surat saw several community members working in diamond polishing units joining the stir even as their employers supported the agitation indirectly choosing to shut the units for a day.
Moreover, the stir by Patidar community has also led to other communities like Brahmin, Kshatriya, Lohana, Thakor and Rajput too initiating their agitations in other parts of the state.
Communities like Brahmins and Kshatriyas have been demanding their right as 51% general quota be maintained by the state government. Meanwhile, PAAS has announced a mega rally in Ahmedabad on August 25 where it anticipates to attract four million community members joining the stir.