In his first public meeting after the controversial videos went viral, Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP. Referring to the videos that have been circulating since Monday, Hardik said, “New techniques are being used by them (BJP) to ensure that saheb (Modi) does not lose in Gujarat.”
On Tuesday, more videos surfaced on social media and television channels purportedly showing Hardik Patel “drinking” in company of a girl and three other men. “Now they have resorted to defame me. I don’t care. My focus is on the fight for farmers and youths. Yes, if they have anything personal against me, I will deal with it. It happens in politics,” Hardik said at a huge gathering at Sarbhan village in Bharuch district.
The BJP, meanwhile, was quick to distance itself from the videos. To the BJP’s charge that he had struck a “deal” with the Congress, Hardik said, “I have not done any sauda (dealings) with anyone. I am fighting with all my strength. I don’t have talent like (Chief Minister Vijay) Rupani and (BJP minister Parshottam) Rupala. I can go to jail, come out and fight again.”
The PAAS leader, whose outfit is in talks with the Congress over the quota demand, said: “They (BJP leaders) are accusing (Congress vice-president) Rahul Gandhi of doing politics in Gujarat. So why is Modi coming to Gujarat every now and then? Is he coming to spray pesticides in fields in Saurashtra?”
He insisted that neither the BJP nor the Congress was “ours”, but “those who speak of our issues and discuss reservation, must be given power”. Accusing the BJP government of failing to address the issue of farmers, he said, “I am learning about your issues here through my visit. I don’t have the talent like him (Modi) to say that I have a long association with every place I visit.”
He also took up the issue of the unsold groundnut, and alleged nepotism in the government procurement of the oilseed. “The government procured yield from those who had settings. You line up trucks at the APMCs, pay the rent and return empty handed to feed your harvest to cows,” he said.
The Patidar leader also did not spare former chief minister Anandiben Patel who was heading the government when he had launched the agitation for Patidar reservation in jobs and education. “In the 1970s, my father drove a car to take Anandiben Patel around Viramgam as no one was willing to lend their cars to her. Today, she has a fleet of cars,” he said.
“When we asked for reservation in education and government jobs, they killed 14 of our youths, tortured our women. They behaved as if we have asked for five CMs of their states,” he said. He accused the BJP of trying to weaken the agitation by booking him in two sedition cases “which has provision for capital punishment”. “If they (BJP) really want to talk of vikas (development), then why do they resort to communalism? What did you do for Gujarat in the last 22 years?” he said. “It’s BJP’s old technique. Lie, and lie with conviction. Repeat your lie and innocent Gujaratis will fall for it and believe it to be true,” he said.