Back home after a six-month “banishment” from Gujarat as per the condition for his bail in sedition cases, Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel on Tuesday called upon members of his community to get ready for a “dangal (wrestling match)” with the state BJP government over their demands. Addressing a gathering of Patidars here after entering the state, Hardik, convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, said that after an 18-month struggle with the government for the quota, he does not “fear anything” and was ready for another duel with it.
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Those who welcomed Hardik included Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani.
“This government has slapped sedition cases against me. I am 23-year-old. Since it is very difficult to give death sentence to anybody in this country, at the most I can be jailed for 14 years. So (by that calculation), I will be free by the time I turn 37. I will be back and can do social work then… Sooner or later, the government will put me behind bars. But, after that, we should know how to play the game of dangal,” Hardik told his supporters who wore white caps inscribed with “Hoon Patidar chhu (I am a Patidar)”.
Sporting a white t-shirt with an image of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and army fatigue pants, Hardik invoked Shivaji, claiming that the Maratha king belonged to the Kurmi community and that Shahuji Maharaj (Shivaji’s descendant) had introduced reservation in India.
After a grand reception at Ratanpur on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border where PAAS members were present in large numbers, Hardik, who had been staying in Udaipur for six months, reached Modasiya Kadva Patidar Samaj Vadi in Himmatnagar of Sabarkantha district in a huge carcade.
Stating his plans to take the Patidar movement forward, he said, “After two days, we will start moving in villages of Gujarat and awakening people… Let us get together and do the GMDC dangal once again.”
“I have only two targets — reservation for the Patidar community and freedom from the atmosphere of fear,” he said.
However, Hardik’s meeting with former CM Keshubhai Patel at his Gandhinagar residence got cancelled. Keshubhai, a Leuva Patel, went to Rajkot to take part in an event. Asked about Keshubhai’s change of plan, Dinesh Bambhaniya, a close aide of Hardik, said: “I had personally fixed the appointment with Keshubhai… The government must have exerted pressure on him not to meet Hardik.”