Under pressure after the BJP governments in Haryana and the Centre agreed to look into the quota demands of Jats, Gujarat appears to be closing in on a compromise with jailed Patidar leader Hardik Patel on the reservation demands of his community.
On Saturday, BJP MP from Porbandar, Vitthal Radadiya, who is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, met Patel at the Lajpore jail for the second time in five days and claimed that the Patidar agitation would end soon.
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“Hardik Patel will come out of jail soon and the agitation will also come to an end. The police complaints lodged against Patidar youths by the state government will be withdrawn shortly,” said Radadiya, after the 30-minute meeting.
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Hardik’s bail plea in two sedition cases, in Ahmedabad and Surat, are due to be heard on Monday. He has been leading an agitation demanding OBC status for Patidars since July last year, which turned violent in August sparking off caste riots in which ten people died.
Radadiya, a Leuva Patel from Saurashtra, had previously met Hardik on February 23, the day the Jats were assured that their quota demands would be looked into. After Saturday’s meeting, when Radadiya was accompanied by Hardik’s cousin Ravi Patel who handed over a lunch box to the jailed leader, the MP also met Surat-based leaders of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS). “A few days ago, I met Hardik Patel in jail when he had put forth his demands which I discussed with Chief Minister Anandiben Patel the following day. Out of 35 points, Hardik has agreed on 27 and said he would discuss the rest with other PAAS members,” said Radadiya. “The main demands were the formation of a Patidar Aayog (a panel that will monitor welfare measures for the community), release of their leaders from jails, withdrawal of cases against them, and construction of schools and colleges for Patidar students in all talukas,” said Radadiya. In his Budget address, Gujarat Finance Minister Saurabh Patel had announced the opening up of 60,000 jobs in the next one year.
On the role of the state government in reaching a compromise with Hardik Patel, Radadiya said, “I am sure and confident that the state government will accept my stand and so will Hardik. I have also spoken to PAAS leaders and they have agreed.”
However, even as Radadiya was speaking to reporters, PAAS co-conveners Dharmik Malaviya, Nikhil Sawani, Vishal Vasoya and others waited outside, indicating that the deal was still far from being sealed.
“We listened to Radadiya, who has become the mediator, but we will not rely on him. We will talk to Hardik and other intellectuals of the community and see whether all our demands are being fulfilled. Till then, our agitation will continue,” said Malaviya.