Gujarat government to start fresh negotiations with quota leaders

Gujarat Government on Monday announced it will start a fresh round of negotiations with the Patel quota agitation leaders from the next week.

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Government on Monday announced it will start a fresh round of negotiations with the Patel quota agitation leaders from the next week.

Health Minister Nitin Patel, who heads a committee of ministers set up by the Government to negotiate with Patel groups seeking reservation under the OBC category, made the announcement today.

Patel and other ministers today met the Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and handed over a report on roadmap to arrive at a compromise formula with Patel groups including the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) led by Hardik Patel and Sardar Patel Group (SPG) led by Lalji Patel.

Patel later told media persons that Government will try its best to see that the agitation ends as early as possible.

"In our meeting with the CM, it was decided that the committee will now invite the mediators for further discussion. These mediators will be called within a week. We will convey Government's view to them so that they can discuss it with PAAS and SPG leaders," said Patel.

"After our meeting with the mediators we will call PAAS and SPG leaders for discussion."

The Government recently appointed some prominent Patel leaders including the BJP MP Vitthal Radadiya as mediators.

"Apart from the demand of reservation, there were many other demands in the letters given to us by PAAS and SPG, a month ago. The committee discussed all of them at length with the CM today," said Nitin Patel.

SPG chief Lalji Patel handed over a memorandum of 27 demands last month to the CM. The jailed PAAS leader Hardik Patel also sent a 27-point charter to the CM.

Some of the key demands are reservations for Patel community, release of jailed leaders and withdrawal of cases against them, and action against the police officers who allegedly committed atrocities on members of the community during the agitation last year.

Minister Nitin Patel claimed that the leaders also suggested an alternate mechanism if the core demand of reservation was not acceptable.

"Both the organisations also suggested setting up of a 'Patidar Aayog' to take care of the community. This is also an alternative to the reservations and the Government is ready to discuss it," he said.

The Government had already started the process of withdrawing the cases against Patel youths, he claimed.

"Barring three-four cases, we have already started the process to withdraw cases. Several cases are already withdrawn. For last seven months, we have not arrested anyone named in the pending FIRs," said Patel.

About withdrawal of cases against Hardik and his three aides who are still behind the bars in sedition cases, Nitin Patel expressed inability on Government's part.

"These matters are sub-judice as the High Court is hearing their bail applications. So the Government cannot take a stand on these cases at present," the minister said.

SPG has announced a Jail Bharo agitation from April 17.

"As the negotiation process is underway, there is no need to start second round of agitation. It is my humble appeal not to start agitation," said Nitin Patel, when asked about it.

"Some people with political agenda are trying hard to drag the issue till 2017 (Assembly) elections. They are deliberately making statements to stall the negotiations. Both SPG and PAAS should designate their spokespersons, so that people do not get misled by the statements of unauthorized persons," he said. 

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