Quota for Patels
Chicke come home to roost
By Faraz Ahmad
For Prime Minister Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi, the chickenhave come home to roost. A 21 year old boy Hardik Patel has created a storm in Modi’s Gujarat showing up Gujarat’s Asmita , seeking backward status and a pie in the 27 per cent OBC reservation for Gujarat’s most prosperous, politically influential and internationally spread community, the Patels, who don’t qualify for backward status by any standards.
But the Patels insist that the current quota system is discriminatory and hurting them and either it be scrapped altogether, their first preference, or they too be declared backwards and included in the OBC quota. They have demonstrated their street power in these two days. It is so unnerving that Modi who took all the time in the world to summon central forces and the Army to quell the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002 and eventually did so only under pressure from the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Defence Minister George Fernandes, wasted not a minute and dispatched 5000 personnel of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) to Gujarat which arrived the same night and followed it up by the Army Flag march in eight main towns of the state, led by state capital Ahmedabad. The rioters either completely burnt or reduced to rubble some 300 state transport buses. That’s a really large number considering that in this privatisation era, most states, Gujarat included are not adding to their fleet and leaving the field open for private operators instead.
Apart from the 5000 central para military forces, 53 companies of Army conducted flag marches in the affected towns and cities of Gujarat. Ahmedabad, Surat and nearby areas are under curfew and mobile and internet services have been suspended throughout the state for the time being and already nine people killed in police firing and street violence. Someone unfamiliar with Indian topography and politics may mistake Gujarat from the sheer enormity of Government action, as if it was Kashmir valley where such heavy handed armed action against street violence is a daily occurrence. Remember these were the self same Patels led by Babubhai Patel, nee Babu Bajrangi and the then VHP Joint general secretary of Gujarat Jaideep Patel and Dr Praveen Togadia, all Patels, who led the carnage of over 2000 Muslims in February-March, 2002. Not to forget the fact that the then state Home Minister was Gordhan Zadafia, also a Patel.
The media is playing up that Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar have started making political capital by declaring their support for Hardik Patel. But why not? After all Hardik Patel has invoked caste genealogy to disclose a kinship with OBC leaders Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Nara Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh. Besides at a time when this Government is willfully and deliberately keeping under wraps the results of caste census, while mischievously leaking out portions of religious census to capitalize on communal polarisation between Hindus and Muslims on the eve of Bihar assembly elections, it is natural for leaders like Lalu and Nitish, the creation of Mandal politics, to fish in Modi’s troubled waters.
It is another matter that the real demand of the Patels is not so much seeking reservation for themselves as of scrapping caste based quota altogether. Actually a very large section of the upwardly mobile, aspirational Savarna Hindus have all along opposed, though mostly under their breath the SC/ST reservation. Mind you till 1991 there was no reservation for the OBCs in central government services at least. Even that 25 per cent SC/ST quota was unpalatable to our friends, bulk of whom used to frequent the RSS shakhas on a regular basis. Of course since 1990 onwards they were also striving to capture the Dalit vote first through the Ram Janabhoomi movement (remember they had pulled out one Dalit boy to perform Ram Shila (brick) puja for the Mandir). We never heard of that character again. So the Aryavrat, whose interests the RSS surreptitiously pushes, always wanted to scrap all affirmative action. And mind you there were quite a few takers for that including our very own Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi both of whom were the poster boy and girl of Anna Hazare agitation. The Sangh has admitted that it generously financed and promoted this movement The under- current of that agitation too was for scrapping altogether the quota system. It is another thing that later Kejriwal sensing the vacuum created by the demoralization of the Congress thanks to its discrediting on corruption issue, did a political turn around and started attacking Narendra Modi as an after-thought, thus successfully displacing the Congress in grabbing the votes of the OBCs, Dalits, Muslims and most economically neglected sections of Delhi citizenry. He seems to have ill-timed his support for Nitish Kumar earlier the poster boy of the both Communal and Secular Right but now the new mascot of secular Bihar.”
Be that as it may. A very large section of the Savarna aspirational class, impatient with the quota system, wants it scrapped altogether. This is nothing new as Akshaya Mukul’s latest book: ‘Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India’, discloses that the Gita Press journal Kalyan has been opposing reservation and deriding Dr B R Ambedkar from the beginning and in turn has been promoting the Manuwadi Aryavrat model of Hindutva, a mirror image of RSS model of a good Hindu. It is the same section which kept shouting ,‘Modi, Modi’ 2012 onwards and the same Patels gathered in Madison Square, New York or Sydney or even Dubai to buck up Modi because they had tremendous faith in his ability to meet their aspirations and do away with what they perceive as tremendous injustice to them. For all the big talk, of Modi or Amit Shah, this is one demand they can never meet for fear of eroding majority of their vote base.
Hardik Patel reminds the people that Patels brought BJP to power and warns that in 2017 the Patels will make it bite dust. That is no empty rhetoric . The Patels have demonstrated their political mite from time to time. One is reminded of the 2002 Gujarat assembly elections. When the results came L K Advani, then the pillar of Modi’s strength, went up to Vajpayee and proudly announced, “We have won Gujarat” to which Vajpayee replied “And lost India.” How correctly the foxy Brahmin had gauged the Indian mood in the run up to the 2004 general elections, which the blinkered media never cared to see. This time perhaps Modi may play the gamble, lose Gujarat to win India. Will he or will he not? That is the moot question.