A day after being appointed working president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC), former Patidar quota stir leader Hardik Patel on Sunday visited Khodaldham in Rajkot and Umiyadham in Jamnagar district, the places of worship for Leuva Patel and Kadva Patel communities, which the quota leaders used to visit frequently to galvanise support among community members.
Patel drove to Khodaldham, the shrine of goddess Khodiyar at Kagvad village, around 70 km from Rajkot, accompanied by a host of Congress MLAs from Saurashtra, including Lalit Vasoya, Lalit Kagathara, Virji Thummar, Pravin Muchhadiya, Bhikha Joshi, Vikram Madam, Vimal Chudasama and Babu Vaja.
Hitesh Vora and Ashok Dangar, presidents of Rajkot district and Rajkot city units of Congress respectively, and Vashram Sagathiya, leader of Opposition in Rjakot Municipal Corporation (RMC) also greeted the newly-appointed leader of their party. However, no office-bearer of Shree Khodaldham Trust (SKT), the religious trust that has built the temple, were present.
Addressing media persons after paying his respects to goddess Khodiyar, the patron deity of Leuva Patel community, Hardik sought to attack the state government on issues of unemployment, novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and farmers’ welfare.
“There are 50 lakh unemployed youth in Gujarat… As many as three lakh posts in the state government are vacant but the government is not doing recruitment. If recruitment examinations are completed, results are not declared and for those recruitment drives where results were declared, postings have not been made,” Hardik said.
He claimed that farmers of Saurashtra were not getting their crop insurance dues on time and nor were they given remunerative prices for their produce. He also accused the government of failing to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
Referring to the encounter killing of gangster Vikas Dubey in Uttar Pradesh and the incidents where Covid-19 patients admitted to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital were found dead outside, he said, “There was no need to kill Vikas Dubey in an encounter. All one needed to was to admit him to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital as coronavirus patient and he would have disappeared from there.”
Hardik also appealed to the Congress workers to begin work for the impending bypoll to Assembly seats that have fallen vacant due to defections of Congress MLAs to BJP and the 2022 general election in the state. “In the bypoll, we shall raise local issues, for example, in Abdasa (in Kutch district), we shall demand why Narmada waters is not reaching farmers in that area. In Karjan, we shall demand reigning in of illegal mining,” said the Congress leader.
During the Patidar quota stir that he led through his outfit Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) from 2015 to 2019, Hardik used to frequently visit Khodaldham. Congress had almost doubled its tally of seats in Saurashtra in 2017 Assembly election.
From Khodaldham, Hardik went to Dhoraji where he had lunch with Vasoya and other MLAs before driving to Umiyadham in Sidsar, a village in Jamjodhpur taluka of Junagadh. Sidsar is the shrine of goddess Umiya, the patron deity of Kadva Patels, another sub-caste group of the Patidar community. Kadva Patels dominate north Gujarat belt and Harik also hails from this group.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines