Patel community leader Hardik Patel on Saturday said the police and the Gujarat government will be “responsible” if the proposed rally of Patels for OBC status here on August 25 turns violent. “We want to hold the rally (on August 25) peacefully, but if they (state government or police) try to stop us, we will not remain silent. If violence happens, the government and the police will be responsible for that,” Hardik, convener of ‘Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti’, told PTI.
The 23-year-old leader is spearheading the agitations by Patels who are demanding reservation in government jobs and education under OBC quota. To a query, Hardik claimed around 25 lakh people from across the state are expected to attend the rally. Hardik said only the writ of Patels runs large in Gujarat and that the community decides who assumes power in the state.
“Whoever talks of interest of Patels will come to power in Gujarat. Patel community has brought people to power and thrown many others out of power. If we fail to get OBC status, we will vote against the incumbent government,” he said. Hardik emphasised that the agitation of Patels is apolitical.
“This (getting reservation) is a matter of our right. It does not matter which party (Congress or BJP) is in power. We call CM (Anandiben Patel) our aunt, but our aunt should now understand that her nephews are agitating on roads, so she should give us our right and that is OBC (status),” Hardik said.
Patels are numerically strong community in Gujarat and are backing the BJP for the last 25 years. “On August 25, we want Patels at every nook and corner of the city. Every true Patel should take a leave from their business and job to support the cause of the community. We were supposed to hold this rally even if the police did not give us permission,” he said.
Hardik said more than 40,000 volunteers will take care of managing the large number of people who will be turning up for the ‘Kranti rally’. “On August 15, 1947 India got freedom similarly we Patels will get freedom on August 25. There will be a revolution. People of our community have become aware of their rights,” he said on the theme of the rally.
When asked about his remarks that Patels could follow the path of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh if non-violent way of Mahatma Gandhi fails to work, Hardik said “they (remarks) will be clarified after August 25.”
When asked if he is planning to join electoral politics in future, Hardik said he could offer his comments only after August 25. He said Patels have always cooperated with the police and they will also extend the same on Tuesday, the day of the rally. Hardik ruled out holding talks with government at this juncture. “They (government) invited me earlier, but at that time this movement (for OBC quota) was not spread across the state. I turned down their invitation because we wanted to spread our message first. There is a rumour that the state government has invited me (now) but I did not get any invitation,” he said.
Hardik said some leaders of the community do meet ministers. “But it is up to the Patel community whether they approve these people as their leaders,” he added. When asked whether the Rs 700-crore package announced by the state government yesterday for communities not overed under any reservation could placate Patels, Hardik said, “Nothing less than OBC status will please us.”
To a query whether the agitation by Patels would rile other communities classified under OBC quota, Hardik said, “There is no conflict between any community. We do not have any objection if OBC communities agitate for their right. But they (OBC) should also understand our demands (to get OBC status). We will request for their cooperation.” Patel community has so far conducted 137 rallies in various parts of the state for OBC status.
“Around 70 per cent people belonging to Patel community lack government jobs as a result of which they have been languishing in poverty,” he added.