As the agitation for reservation by the powerful, organised and numerically strong Patels is led by Hardiik Patel, the Bharatiya Janata Party is concerned as he had supported the party electorally.
A senior BJP leader told The Hindu on Wednesday that the agitation had political ramifications that could have an impact beyond the State, striking a resonance with similarly placed communities elsewhere in the country.
The Janata Dal(U), led by Nitish Kumar, and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, led by Lalu Prasad, backed the Patels in their battle to be included in the Other Backward Classes, a day after Mr. Patel sought the support of Mr. Kumar and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.
Mr. Kumar’s Kurmi community and Mr. Naidu’s Kamma caste are similarly placed as the Patels. For the BJP, this is not good news, not merely because Mr. Modi, who is from an OBC caste, had succeeded in enlarging the party’s OBC base in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but also because Mr. Kumar and Mr. Yadav will use the Patel agitation to good effect in the Assembly elections due in Bihar later this year.
BJP sources said that it was best that the Prime Minister should keep a distance from the evolving situation in Gujarat. This is especially so as some among them believe Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has mismanaged the situation. The police should not have been allowed to baton-charge the agitators, they say, as that triggered off the violence and deaths. “Instead, the Gujarat government should have tired out the agitators: the message of what we saw on TV will percolate to the villages,” the sources said.
If Mr. Kumar and Mr. Yadav are now fishing in troubled waters, in Gujarat, the Congress’s Shankarsinh Vaghela, the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, sought Ms. Patel’s resignation on Wednesday. He alleged that at the Centre’s diktat, “the Gujarat government gave a free hand to [the police] to crack down on innocent people. The police broke doors of houses and thrashed women and children in their homes.”
Oddly enough, the Union Cabinet agreed to the long-pending demand of two OBC Muslim communities in Gujarat — Sipahis and Turki Jamaat — to be included in the central OBC category on Wednesday, sending out a counter-signal to the Patels.