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Gujarat clears 10% quota for poor to pacify Patels

In a major damage-control move to placate agitating Patidars ahead of the 2017 assembly elections, Gujarat's Anandiben Patel government on Friday declared a separate 10 per cent quota for economically backward classes (EBC) in higher education and government jobs.

The new category would include all upper castes, including Patidars, whose family income does not exceed Rs 6 lakh per annum.

The announcement follows the footsteps of BJP governments in Rajasthan and Haryana, where the ruling party approved quota bills to placate Gujjars and Jats, respectively.

The decision to approve quota for upper castes by creating an EBC category in Gujarat was taken at BJP's core committee meeting at the state headquarters. BJP president Amit Shah headed the meeting, which was attended by chief minister Anandiben and other state officials.

However, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) rejected the move, with Ketan Patel, a close supporter of Samiti convenor Hardik Patel, calling it "yet another lollipop from the BJP factory."

Snubbing the BJP move, Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela said the EBC quota should be increased to 20 per cent and the income limit of economically backward classes raised to Rs 12 lakh per annum.

Senior advocate Girish Patel said while the government can give an ordinance on EBC quota and report it as well, the quota is not permitted in the Constitution under its Article 16(1), which does not permit reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.

It also abuses Article 16 (4), which provides for reservation on caste basis, he said.