When Congress announced its intent to provide quota to Patidar community in poll-bound Gujarat this month, many wondered whether the party was back to committing the same mistake that it had committed in Maharashtra, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in past polls.If what all exit polls suggested about BJP’s win in Gujarat, it is clear that Congress quota gambit has once again not paid rich dividends.Like its past promises to provide reservation to Marathas in Maharastra and Jaat in Haryana failed to yield much electoral gains to it in 2014 Lok Sabha poll, even the quota promise to Patidars seem to have led to a kind of counter polarisation among the reserved classes.Releasing party manifesto in Ahmedabad on December 4, Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki, announced reservation in jobs and education to Patidars under a special category. It said that a special bill will be brought to provide quotas to those who are not presently entitled by quota and the quota given to OBCs, STs, SCs will not be touched. Congress said that Patidars will get quota under special category.Congress said that if it won the Gujarat elections, it would pass a proposal for reservations under Articles 31-C and 46 of the Constitution.”We will consult all stakeholders on reservation to Patidars and a commission will be constituted for this purpose,” Solanki said adding that a bill will be introduced in the assembly.Hardik Patel accepted the formula, elating Congress leaders. Votes of Patidars could have influenced results in more than 60 of 182 Assembly constituencies. If the exit polls are correct, then this did not happen. Possibly it also led to a kind of polarisation for BJP among OBCs. It should not be forgotten that though Hardik and Alpesh Thakor, both backed Congress, Alpesh has risen in stature, countering the former’s agitation for reservation for Patidars.BJP is learnt to have worked seriously on the sizeable Koli community among OBCs to offset the losses from its erstwhile core vote Patidars going towards the Congress. A few months before Lok Sabha poll, the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra granted reservation benefits to the dominant Maratha caste there. It had announced to provide 16 percent to reservation to Maratha to five percent to Muslims in jobs and education.Amid the raging demand for Jaat reservation in Haryana, the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre then announced quota to the dominant peasant community in nine states. While both the measures could not stand legal scrutiny, the move also failed to bring any electoral gains to Congress. BJP not only romped home in both states in Lok Sabha elections but also won with huge margins in subsequent assembly elections there in 2015, replacing the Congress-NCP and Congress government in both states. In the Jaat dominated regions of North India, Congress stands marginalised.Many Congress leaders in private argue that such quota promises proved counter productive.POWER OF PATIDAR?Votes of Patidars could have influenced results in more than 60 of 182 Assembly constituencies. If the exit polls are correct, then this did not happen. Possibly it also led to a kind of polarisation for BJP among OBCs. It should not be forgotten that though Hardik and Alpesh Thakor, both backed Congress, Alpesh has risen in stature.
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