Around 4.5 lakh Patidars on Monday took out a vehicle rally in Surat to press their demand for OBC status and reservation benefits. While several diamond and textile units owned by members of the Patel community remained shut, many retired police personnel and former government officials participated in the agitation.
Riding bikes, trucks and tractors, the Patidars began their rally from Dharukawala college in Kapodara area at around 8 am and reached the district collector’s office at Athwalines in the afternoon after passing through Sahara Darwaja locality and Ring road. Several people also walked to the district collector’s office and gave him a memorandum in favour of their demand — listing the Patel community as OBC (Other Backward Class) and a separate five per cent reservation for landless Patidars under the Special Backward Class quota.
The agitators also handed over memoranda to four BJP MLAs from their community, Kumar Kanani, Praful Panseriya, Janak Bagdana and minister Nanubhai Vanani, besides BJP MP from Surat city Darshana Jardosh.
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Schools and colleges in Varachha, Kapodara, Punagam, Katargam areas remained closed and massive traffic jams were witnessed in several parts of the city. Incessant rain since morning further slowed down the vehicular movement.
The rally, organised by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, had received police’s nod on Sunday evening after days of talks. While it was led by the Samiti’s Surat unit convener Alpesh Kathiriya and co-convener Nikhil Sawani, “face of the agitation” Hardik Patel also participated in the rally.
Later talking to reporters, Hardik said he expected 40 lakh people to participate in the Patidar rally in Ahmedabad on August 25 and that several Patels from neighbouring Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh would also join the agitation.
“The government should make their stand clear on this issue, and if not they will have to face the outcome in the upcoming local body elections. The Patidars are smart and they will decide who will run the government. We are a non-political organisation, and we are happy that both Kadva and Leuva Patels have come together on one platform. In the past few days, over 127 different organisations have submitted memoranda to the government supporting the demand for reservation under the OBC quota,” he said.
Claiming the rally as a “mega success”, co-convener Nikhil said: “We are thankful to all the Patidars who participated in the peaceful bike rally. This is just a trailer, and the full movie is still to come. We will stick to our demands. Our leader Hardik Patel is also happy with our management, and he has told us to help the Ahmedabad Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti members for the August 25 rally.”