Former Gujarat Congress president Siddharth Patel, who along with Gujarat High Court lawyer Babubhai Mangukiya, met senior party leader and advocate Kapil Sibal in New Delhi, told reporters that the party high-command might take a call on the issue on Monday. Hardik Patel has set a condition that he would support the Congress in the Assembly election, due next month, only if the party committed itself to allotting a quota in education and government jobs to his community under the OBC category.
He has set November 7 as the deadline for the Congress to make its stand clear on the issue.
Mr Sibal said he had conveyed his opinion about the quota to party president Sonia Gandhi. "I have studied the Constitution in detail and given my views (about reservation) to the party high-command," he told reporters.
On his meeting with the Gujarat leaders, Mr Sibal said they discussed the quota issue in detail. "However, the final call on the issue will be taken by the party high-command. I cannot say anything about the issue of reservation (to Patels) as of now," he said.
Siddharth Patel said the Congress high-command was likely to take a call on the issue of reservation for Patels tomorrow. "We have discussed various alternatives during today's meeting (with Sibal). By tomorrow, the party high-command is expected to take a call on those suggestions (about giving reservations to Patels), following which, we will engage in discussions with Hardik," he said, adding that the party was "doing its best" to resolve the issue.
Mr Mangukiya said the Constitution did not have words such as OBC or EBC (economically backward class) and Patidars should not insist on the OBC quota. "The words OBC and EBC are not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. It mentions only 'Backward Classes' and 'Weaker Section'. Don't give too much stress on OBC or EBC, the important thing is that they will definitely get reservation," Mr Mangukiya said, adding that Sibal might come to Gujarat to hold a meeting with Hardik on the issue, if needed.
Hardik Patel (24), the face of the quota stir, recently met Congress' Gujarat affairs in-charge Ashok Gehlot to discuss the quota demand.
The Congress had promised to offer reservation in jobs and education to Patidars under the EBC category, but not in the other backward class (OBC) group as demanded by the community.
The Congress had agreed to various demands of Patidars, including the formation of an SIT to investigate alleged atrocities against the members of the community during a PAAS (Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti) rally in Ahmedabad on August 25-26 last year, if voted to power.
The party is trying to wean away the Patidars from the ruling BJP in the state. The community is believed to be a loyal vote bank of the saffron party and its numerical strength can tilt the scales in elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had tried to reach out to the Patels on November 2 when he attended the silver jubilee function of the Akshardham temple of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) in Gandhinagar.
He had said that the Patidars had traditionally been with the BJP, "but a section of the community has turned against the party due to the recent agitation for reservation".