Gandhinagar, Apr 29: Facing the heat over Patel quota agitation, the BJP government in Gujarat today announced 10 per cent reservation for the economically backward among upper castes up to an annual family income of Rs 6 lakh, but the Hardik Patel-led outfit rejected it.
The decision, which came in the wake of reverses suffered by the BJP in the civic polls and in view of the Assembly elections due next year, however, breaches the reservation limit of 50 per cent set by the apex court.
The state government already provides 50 per cent quota to SC/STs and OBCs. The Opposition Congress said the announcement of 10 per cent quota for EBCs was "deceptive" and meant to assuage the Patel community.
The crucial decision was taken at the state BJP unit's core group meeting which was also attended by national president Amit Shah. It set a family income cap of Rs 6 lakh a year to avail the benefit for education and jobs.
In its initial reaction, quota agitation leader Hardik Patel's Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti rejected the move as another "lollipop" extended by the BJP and the state government to "mislead" their community.
However, another quota agitation body Sardar Patel Group (SPG) welcomed the government's move, but said they will assess how it will help the community and upto what extent.
"Our core group meeting, headed by national president Amit Shah, has decided to give 10 per cent reservation for economically backward among general category," state BJP president Vijay Rupani, flanked by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and senior minister Nitin Patel, told reporters.
"A notification will be issued on the Gujarat state formation day on May 1, and EBCs among general category will be able to take the benefit of the reservation in education and jobs from the next academic year," he said.
"Families having an annual income of Rs 6 lakh or below will be eligible to avail the reservation. That means a family having an income upto Rs 50,000 per month can take the benefit of the scheme," he said.
The reservation announced by the government will be over and above the cap of 50 per cent reservation set by the Supreme Court, and may face legal hurdles.
Asked if the move will stand legal scrutiny, Rupani said, "We are very serious about this and we will fight it up to the apex court for reservation of economically backward among the general category."
"We have not touched the quota given to SC, STs and OBCs. Their quota is intact," Rupani said, seeking to assuage the OBC community, which had launched a counter agitation against giving reservation to Patels.
When asked if this reservation scheme comes on the recommendations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, "The decision was taken in a core group meeting in which national party president Amit Shah was present. So, it has got green signal from everybody in national party."