In an age when we are fed a narrative that India is on the cusp of great things, that we are in midst of the great forward push, one cannot miss the irony in the demand to be “backward”. But when it comes to the cold arithmetic of caste confounded by the algebra of politics, it is important to sift the facts from the fluff. Twenty-two- year-old Hardik Patel can keep up his agitation and in the future even trigger caste wars, but he can never get backward caste reservation for his community. There are three broad indicators—social backwardness, educational backwardness and unemployment—relative to other communities that are used by backward caste commissions to extend the benefits of reservation. The Patidars are just too ‘forward’ on all fronts to be backward.
P.S. Krishnan, possibly India’s foremost expert on caste, class and reservation (he was also the secretary, welfare, who signed the Mandal commission when it came into effect), is clear that the Patidars are unlikely to prove “backwardness” just as the Marathas failed to do so. Do those at the bottom of the social scale ever agitate in the way the Patidars are doing, or like the Jats are threatening to take over Delhi in mid-September? “No, the weak communities do not have the capacity to do this. They would be finished off if they had dared,” says Krishnan.