After Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Nationalist Congress party (NCP) leader and former Union Aviation Minister Praful Patel on Monday strongly supported the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) agitation for reservation and met one of the chief PAAS leaders Dinesh Patel at the latter’s residence on Monday morning.
“I met Dinesh and several other PAAS leaders today”, Patel told this reporter. Patel also announced to launch a “Jan Jagran”(Public Awareness) programme of his party from Umergaon to Kutch with a view to strenghthening his party in the state nad present itself as a third political alternative to the people besides the Congress and BJP. However, he did not give any specific date when the programme would be launched.
Addressing a state-level convention of his party at the Town Hall in Ahmedabad, Patel vehemently criticised the state BJP government for booking PAAS leaders including Hardik Patel on sedition charges.
“A case of sedition has been slapped on Patidar leaders. This is beyond our comprehension”, he said, adding “at the same time you (BJP) are hugging Nawaz Sharif and Pakistani leaders who are enemies of our nation. You are harming the interest of the nation”.
“But you (BJP) should know that this isssue is certanly going to be raised in the forthcoming assembly elections and you will have to account for your deeds to the people. You should know that India is a democracy and everybody has a right to vote under the Constitution,” Patel remarked.
Speaking in chaste Gujarati and invoking his Gujarati connection saying he originally hailed from Nadiad, Mumbai-based Patel said,”It is the responsibility of the government to hold discussions with the Patel community and solve the issue. The state government’s attitude of ‘my way or highway’ will not work”.
Stating that it was the right of every community in a democracy to make demand for their welfare, he said that like Jats in Haryana, Gujjars in Rajasthan and Marathas in Maharashra, Patels in Gujarat were also demanding reservation in jobs and admissions.
He said that though the Supreme Court had laid down that the reservaton would not cross 50 per cent limit but there were states where the reservation percentage had crossed 50 per cent and this was done depending on the local conditions.
“Originally, there were reservations for SCs and STs only. then OBCs were incorporated in it by amending the Constitution. So, some way can be found to solve the Patidar issue as well”, he said in response to a question.
Announcing to launch “Jan Jagaran” programme of his party from Umergaon on Maharashtra border to Kutch for “political Parivartan” (political change) in 2017 assembly elections, Patel said, “We can’t remain silent. We are a big party with presence in each and every district in the state. We need to offer ourselves as a strong third political alternative to the people of Gujarat, besides BJP and Congress.”
“People are angry with BJP but they are not happy with Congress either”, said Patel, suggesting people in gujarat were looking for a third alternative.
“We worked with Congress for 10 years in Delhi and 15 years in Mahaarashtra but we can’t remain dependent on the Congress. We will strengthen our party on our own”, said Patel.
Commenting on completion of two years of BJP government at the Centre with Narendra Modi as prime minister, Patel said, “No change has coccured for the common man”. He said that Modi had not been able to fulfill even one of his poll promises.