Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, who reached Gujarat Friday evening on a two-day trip, made a vigorous effort to reach out to Patidars as he shouted “Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar” while interacting with the community members at Pilodra village in Mehsana district, the “ground zero” of the Patidar quota stir.
After a visit to Kali temple, Kejriwal said that on the grounds of Pilodra, he was reminded of the “Anna Andolan”. “The whole country was together with just one demand: have a law against corruption. The governments mocked the activists and said if you want a law, fight the election your self. They challenged us. When there was no way out, we had to form a party and fight elections and today we have 66 of 70 seats (in Delhi Assembly).”
Two letters written to Kejriwal, one by Sardar Patel Group leader Lalji Patel (dated October 14) and another purportedly signed by Hardik Patel on the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) letterhead (dated October 13), were circulated on WhatsApp groups, seeking to know what Kejriwal could do for the Patidars. The purported Hardik’s letter stated, “Our main demand is quota for the Patidars and you should tell us what you can do about it…You are the chief minister of Delhi and any voice raised in Delhi is heard across the country….. so we appeal to you to do whatever you can for the community.” Lalji Patel’s letter sought to ask Kejriwal “Why should the Patidar support AAP?”. It also wanted to know what Kejriwal could do to resolve the quota question, and what steps could be taken against police officers for their alleged atrocities against Patidars during the quota stir.
Earlier in the evening, Kejriwal visited Patidar-dominated societies in Mehsana and also met family members of two youths from the community who were killed in the police firing last year after the quota agitation turned violent.
As Kejriwal visited families of slain youths Nishit Patel and Mayur Patel and assured them support in their fight for justice, members of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti circulated photographs of these meetings on WhatsApp groups and social media sites.
“Whoever ordered the firing, whether a magistrate or an official above him, should be booked. This is a sad state of affairs and such incidents disturb harmony in the state,” he said after spending nearly 20 minutes with the relatives of Nishit Patel.
Parents and relatives of Mayur Patel, however, told Kejriwal that they have received all help from the Gujarat government and they “do not expect anything more”.
“Arvind Kejriwal just gave his condolences to the family… he did not give any assurance. We have already received all help from the Gujarat Government after Deputy CM Nitin Patel handed us a cheque of Rs 24 lakh that took care of the cost of Mayur’s treatment. We don’t expect anything more and are not hankering for justice.”
Ahead of the Assembly elections in 2017, Kejriwal and his party have been making efforts to reach out to the Patidar community. The AAP leader would also hold a public meeting in Surat, where Patidar population in significant.
As soon as he reached Ahmedabad with party leader Sanjay Singh, Kejriwal attacked the ruling BJP, alleging it was trying to block the Surat rally.
“I have a rally in Surat on October 16 to discuss issues pertaining to Gujarat. I will consult people if AAP should fight the forthcoming Assembly elections? But Amit Shah and BJP are trying obstruct the rally. This rally is for the people of Gujarat and if they (Amit Shah and BJP) obstruct it, they will be harming the interest of Gujarat,” he told reporters outside the airport.
He immediately left for Mehsana with Sanjay Singh, state party in-charge and Delhi MLA Gulab Singh Yadav and party leader Kanubhai Kalsaria.
On Saturday, Kejriwal would meet family members of other Patidars killed during the quota violence in August last year. He would also visit Umiya Mata temple, revered by the Patidars, at Unjha.
With inputs from Syed Khalique Ahmed