Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel on Friday exhorted Patidars not to vote for the BJP even if they fielded his father in the upcoming Assembly elections in the state. In a stinging attack on the ruling party, Hardik, who has been spearheading the agitation seeking reservation for the community for the past two years, said: “It is our duty to liberate our community which has been enslaved for the last 25 years. The post-Godhra riots of 2002 were between Hindus and Muslims. But as a matter of fact, 140 Patidars are serving life imprisonment even today… They (BJP) have only exploited our votes and notes (money) and gave nothing in return.”
He was addressing Patidars at Ajab village in Keshod taluka of Junagadh district on the second day of his three-day Sankalp Yatra, which began from Ahmedabad.
“The election is around the corner. They (BJP) will give you many lollipops. Some will even come to buy you. But don’t vote even for my father, Bharat Patel, if he fights election from Keshod as a BJP candidate,” the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) said to a rousing applause.
Hardik, who later garlanded a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar in Keshod town, urged other communities to join hands with the Patidars in ousting the BJP from power. “The Patidars’ quota agitation has been going on for the last two-and-a-half years. They (BJP government) threatened to file many cases. But we have always maintained that we are ready if you want to fight legally, and also if you want to fight by gundagardi (hooliganism). Let us, we Patidars and other communities, get together and remove those who are behaving like dictators and goons,” he said.
The 24-year-old leader, however, had soft words for the Congress. “You would be wondering what the Congress did in 1985. But all they did was to threaten that they will force upper-caste women to wait in queues to get oil. They didn’t kill anybody. But these people (BJP) killed 14 boys. They don’t have any right to be in power for the next 50 years,” he said.
Hardik also took potshots at Congress MLAs who voted for the BJP in the recent Rajya Sabha election. “You would be wondering how a man who would come to your village and deliver speech could get himself sold for Rs 15 crore. They had just 300 supporters and still got Rs 15 crore. We have so many supporters. So, apparently, our value would be more. But honesty of the community can never be purchased by money,” he said.
“It is not important if a Patidar is the chief minister or home minister. But four MLAs who can resign if something happens to a Patidar would be enough. We had 44 (MLAs from Patidar community)… What did we gain?” he added.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of people gathered along the roads to greet Hardik as his convoy of over 100 cars, most of them luxury SUVs, meandered through Morbi, Rajkot and Junagadh districts. Police tried to stop his convoy at two places — Junagadh city and Vanthali — but with no or little success as the yatra marched through the Saurashtra region with people lining along the roads to garland him amid “Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar” slogan.
The three-day yatra will culminate in Somnath on Saturday.
“We are going on a pilgrimage with a noble cause. They (BJP government) are not registering our FIR. So, we are going to Somnath temple to get an FIR registered against BJP,” said Hardik, who is accompanied by his close aides Dinesh Bambhaniya and Reshma Patel.
The second day of yatra began on Friday morning from Neknam village in Tankara taluka of Morbi district.
As the convoy reached Junagadh city, police blocked the entry, forcing the yatra to proceed towards Vanthali through the bypass. The convoy halted briefly outside the BJP office located on the bypass road with Hardik’s supporters raising slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
At Vanthali, police stopped the convoy and allowed only couple of cars, including that of Hardik to enter the Vanthali town, forcing others to head towards Keshod.
At Gadoi toll plaza on NH 8D, his supporters created a ruckus as they refused to pay toll tax. They were allowed to move ahead only after paying the toll tax.