With Lok Sabha polls round the corner, the Patidar community in Gujarat seem to be back in action. While one set of Patidars associated with Sardardham Vishwa Patidar Samaj is holding a special gathering of businessmen for providing jobs and encouraging youths to become entrepreneurs in Ahmedabad city on Saturday, about 120 kilometers away in Dhrangadhra town of neighbouring Surendranagar district, another group of Patidars led by Hardik Patel will be gathering for a “Patidar Nyay Panchayat” under the banner of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) for renewing their agitation for reservations on the same day.
Sardardham Vishwa Patidar Samaj that has a sitting BJP minister in the Gujarat government as a “founding trustee”, has invited Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and deputy CM Nitin Patel for the event which is being described as a “historic economic mission”. It has also invited over 2,500 businessmen from the community which includes leading diamantaires from Surat, tiles and clock manufacturers from Morbi and real estate developers from Ahmedabad.
When asked if it was a coincidence that its event is coinciding with the one organised by PAAS at Dhrangadhra, Gagji Sutariya, president of the organisation said he had no idea of the PAAS event. “Sardardham is an idea. The 21st century belongs to science and technology, and not to muscle power. So for providing the youths from the community with a new platform for business and trade, all opportunities have to be grabbed. This is the need of the hour. This is what Sardardham is planning to do,” he added.
At the event on Saturday, Sardardham is planning to lay the foundation stone for a hostel that will accommodate 2,000 Civil Services aspirants from the community with rural backgrounds. It will also begin “online networking portal”. “Sardardham, through these events, is beginning a new revolution. It is a historic economic mission. Through this mission, we want to help the youth grab new opportunities, ideas and build their own image through handwork,” said Sutariya while replying to a question if reservation for the community sought by PAAS is not necessary.
A Patidar business summit-cum-job fair held in January 2018 was the first major event held by the Sardardham Vishwa Patidar Samaj which claims to be a network of 10,000 Patidar businessmen. The event was held immediately after the Rupani government was elected back to power in the December 2017 Assembly elections. The event in Ahmedabad city on Saturday is expected to see diamantaires like Govind Dholakia, chairman Ramkrishna Exports, Vallabh S Lakhani, Kiran Gems Pvt Ltd and industrialists from Ajanta Group, Meghmani Group, among others. The chairman of Gujarat Municipal Finance Board, Dhansukh Bhandari, is also among the invitees for the event.
Earlier this week, Patidar leader Hardik Patel sought to revive the quota stir. He wrote letters to all Patidar MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly and requested them to attend a Patidar Nyay Panchayat on May 26 at Dhrangadhra for charting the future course of the reservation agitation. Hardik had become the face of Patidar movement that began in June 2015 and adversely affected BJP’s prospects in the 2017 state Assembly elections. The BJP has already hit back at Hardik Patel for the letter. Jitu Vaghani, state party president and one of the BJP MLAs to whom the letters were sent said, “Who is he? I do not feel it necessary to reply to the stooges of the Congress… BJP has nothing to do with people who emerge when elections near. It has nothing to with those who campaigned to defeat the BJP and the Patidars associated with the party. The BJP and the community leaders are there to worry about the community.”