Differences among the Patidar quota agitation leaders once again came to fore Sunday. Laljibhai Patel, president of Sardar Patel Group (SPG), resigned from his post after he was not allowed to go on the stage of the Mahila Sashaktikaran Mahasammelan (Women’s Empowerment Conference) in Mehsana.
Lalji faced the ire of members from another outfit, Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), when he arrived at the meeting’s venue, about 65 km from Ahmedabad. Efforts by sitting MLA Nalin Kotadia to intervene turned futile as angry workers did not agree on anything short of Lalji leaving the place.
Lalji has not only quit SPG post, he has also announced that he would not be associated with other activities of the SPG in future. PAAS and SPG are the two organisations which are leading the agitation for reservation to Patels in jobs and education in Gujarat under the OBC category.
As Lalji reached the meeting venue, organised by the community’s women, some PAAS members shouted slogans against him and an announcement was made that he should not be allowed on the stage.
Feeling slighted, Lalji immediately left the venue. “This is the biggest insult I have faced in my life and I have decided to tender my resignation from the post of President of SPG,” an angry Lalji later told reporters. “If I am insulted in this way then I have no right to be a leader of Patel quota agitation. I have spent 17 years of my life serving the people of the community,” he maintained.
Kotadia, who was present at the venue, said. “It (quitting) is Laljibhai’s personal decision which we hope to convince him to withdraw… his resignation has not been accepted.” “I am sure this is the handiwork of the government to create a rift among the Andolan leader and thus break it,” Kotadia added. Laljibhai was busy, but his aide who took the phone call, said he had announced to quit. “But our core committee has not accepted the resignation,” he said.
The incident has once again brought to light deep divisions between the Patel community leaders at a time when they are engaged in talks with the state government to reach a compromise on quota and other
issues. In the past, Lalji and Hardik have criticised each other and differed over the way the quota agitation should be taken forward. The BJP government has roped in senior party MP and Patidar leader Vitthal Radadiya for negotiations on its behalf. Radadiya has met Hardik, arrested on sedition charges, in jail twice in the last week and has said their talks are going in positive direction.
With inputs from PTI