An audio tape has surfaced wherein a Patel quota agitation leader is purportedly saying that his community "stands no chance" of getting reservation under the OBC category while another leader has alleged that Hardik Patel "misled" the community on the issue.
The tape contains telephonic conversation between Lalji Patel (the leader of Sardar Patel Group) with Khodabhai Patel, another leader of the community, and has gone viral on social media.
Lalji's Sardar Patel Group (SPG) and Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamant Andolan Samiti (PAAS) are two separate groups leading quota agitation of Patel community in the state. While Hardik and some other PAAS members are behind bars in the sedition case, Lalji is presently leading the agitation.
"We will never get reservation under OBC quota as we (Patels) do not fall in the criteria of getting the quota as it is for those who are backward...and if we insist, then all other communities will stand up against us and class-conflict will start. The government will never include us in OBC category," Lalji is heard saying in the tape.
When Khodabhai asked Lalji that it means Hardik "misled" the community on reservation issue, to which Lalji answered "Yes".
Hardik's PAAS had started agitation with the demand of inclusion of entire Patel community in OBC category.
27 per cent seats out of the total 49 per cent in education and jobs are reserved for OBC category in Gujarat.
The SPG confirmed that it was indeed Lalji Patel in the audio clip and the conversation was from a call that Khodabhai had made to him a week back.
However, its spokesperson Urvin Patel sought to downplay the controversy, saying Lalji's has "not endorsed" that Hardik had misled the Patel community.
Urvin also said that what Lalji meant to say was the OBC reservation for the community would take time.
Speaking about the Congress' offer of giving reservation to Patels and other upper castes under the EBC (Economically Backward Class) category, Lalji was heard saying that other upper castes will reap maximum profits if the EBC reservation is accepted, while the Patels would not gain much.
On Congress' impressive performance in local bodies polls held in November, Lalji admitted that their stir had helped Congress as Patels had decided to teach BJP a lesson.
The large-scale protests by Patidars last year had triggered violence in many parts of the state, culminating in the arrest of Hardik and his aides under the charge of sedition.