He said the reservation agitation was acquiring political colour as state assembly elections, slated to be held later this year, approached.
The BJP president was here to take questions from the youth at a programme called ‘Adikham Gujarat’ or Resolute Gujarat.
Asked by a participant how the BJP government was dealing with the Patidar agitation for reservations under the OBC category, Shah said the BJP government had asked the protesters, led by Hardik Patel, to follow the “legal process” but the “direction of the agitation changed”.
“Observe the development and you will realise that slowly it has become an agitation backed by one political party. People had joined the agitation emotionally but the organisers are leaning towards one political party,” he said.
Shah said his party’s government in Gujarat tried to persuade the agitators to follow the legal process to achieve their goal.
“As per the main demand of the Patidar agitation, if a caste has to be included in the OBC category, that caste can submit an application to the OBC commission,” he said.
Only after its recommendation can the caste get a place in that category, he added.
“But unfortunately, the direction of the agitation was changed... As the election approaches, you will see that slowly the issue will become political,” he said.
Shah said under a Supreme Court ruling, reservation cannot exceed 50 per cent.
While reservation for SC and ST candidates was Constitutionally binding and no state government could change it, for a caste to find a place under the OBC category, it had to go through a procedure of submitting an application to the OBC Commission, he said.
Shah’s comment comes in the backdrop of Hardik Patel recently dropping hints of supporting the Congress in the assembly elections.
Since 2015, the Patidars (Patels) have been agitating for inclusion of the community under the OBC category for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.