Ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Surat on November 3, Patidar leader Hardik Patel has asked the Congress to clarify its position on Patidar reservation by then or else, he warned, the party would face protests of the kind BJP president Amit Shah faced in the city. Tweeting in Hindi, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader said, “3/11/2017 tak congress patidar ko samvedhanik aarakshan kaise degi, uss mudde par apna stand clear kar de nahin toh Amit Shah jaisa mamla Surat mein hoga (By November 3, the Congress should make clear their stand on how they plan to give reservation to Patidars as per the Constitution or else, they will face what Amit Shah faced in Surat).”
On September 8 last year, at an event in Surat to felicitate Patidar leaders where Chief minister Vijay Rupani and Shah were present, PAAS members threw chairs as Shah spoke and shouted “Hardik, Hardik” and “Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar”. Hardik was then in Udaipur, serving a bail condition.
The Congress has organised a public meeting of Rahul Gandhi at Jal Kranti Maidan in Varachha on the evening of November 3. Hardik is also in Surat the same day and the Congress is trying to get him to share the dais with Rahul.
Talking to The Sunday Express, Surat PAAS convenor Dharmik Malaviya said, “We are very much with Hardik on his statement on Twitter. The Congress is organising a public meeting of Rahul Gandhi in a Patidar-dominated area and they are doing this to get votes from Patidar community. We have shown our anger and frustration during Amit Shah’s public meeting and if the Congress fails to take a stand, we will definitely protest during Rahul Gandhi’s rally.”
Later, when asked how the party intended to accommodate the Patidar demand for reservation, former state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia said the party would reserve 20 per cent for poor candidates in the economically backward caste category – without affecting the reservation quota for SCs, STs and OBCs – and that Patidars would be accommodated there.
In a press conference at the BJP office, Reshma Patel and Varun Patel, who recently quit PAAS to join the BJP, attacked Hardik Patel over his tweet and said he should clarify whether he wanted reservation for the community under the OBC category or under the economically backward caste (EBC) category.
Last week, the Congress had invited the three “Young Turks” of Gujarat politics – Hardik, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, and Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani — to contest the Assembly polls on the Congress symbol. Hours after the invitation by Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki, Thakor met Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi and announced his decision to join the party.
Mevani, convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM), had said that he was yet to decide whether he would contest the elections. Hardik had then said on Twitter that he did not want to contest. In any case, he is not yet 25, and therefore, remains ineligible.