With Congress leader Hardik Patel leading a 100-km roadshow for his party candidates from Jamangar Lok Sabha seat and Jamnagar (Rural) Assembly constituency on Sunday, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leaders threw their weight behind the nominees, asking people to vote for them believing they were contesting on behalf of the quota stir leader.
On the last day of campaigning for the Parliamentary elections and bypoll to four Assembly seats in the state, Hardik led the poll rally of Mulu Kandoriya and Jayanti Sabhaya, Congress candidates for Jamnagar Lok Sabha seat and Jamnagar (Rural) Assembly constituency respectively. Hardik drove across Jodiya, Dhrol and Jamnagar talukas of Jamnagar district and made stopovers at 16 villages, raising the issue of agrarian crisis.
All along the 100-km roadshow, Bhupat Dhamsaniya, Jamnagar district convenor of PAAS, played a key role in mobilising crowd at stopovers, while Manoj Panara, spokesperson of the samiti, joined the convoy midway.
At Bhadra village in Jodiya taluka from where Hardik embarked on the roadshow, Dhamsaniya told the crowd that through the quota agitation, they had solved a few problems faced by the Patidars and asked to vote for the candidates he endorses in return. “We secured 10 per cent reservation (for economically weaker section in general category) for you. Thanks to our agitation, your sons and daughters are benefiting from (Mukhyamantri) yuva swavavlamban yojana in their studies. The agitation also forced the government to set up Bin-anamat aagoy (Gujarat Unreserved Education and Economic Development Corporation). Now, can you ensure that 80 per cent of votes from this village goes to the Congress,” asked Dhamsaniya, to which the sizable crowd replied, “Haan (Yes)”.
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Panara told the crowd that Sabhaya and Kandoriya are contesting polls on behalf of Hardik. “Hardik wanted to contest from Jamnagar, but (the) BJP prevented him. Therefore, Jayantibhai is contesting. This is the man who has supported our quota agitation. Similarly, Mulubhai has also donated land to our community,” the PAAS spokesperson said, while addressing a gathering in Dudhasiya village of Jamnagar taluka.
Panara also told the crowd that Hardik was the next Keshubhai Patel.
Speaking for the first time, the two candidates echoed Panara. “This election is a fight of ideologies. This is to effect a change of government. Hardikbhai was supposed to contest from here, but at the last minute, it fell on me to fight. Therefore, I am contesting now on his behalf, on your behalf, on farmers’ behalf. Hardikbhai is our leader today and will continue to be in future,” said Kandoriya who belongs to Ahir community from OBC category.
Sabhaya, a Patidar, said, “At this meeting in Dudhasiya village, I acknowledge that Hardikbhai is my leader. He allotted me ticket to contest this election and despite paucity of time, he came here to make me victorious. I will forever be his supporter.”
Dhudasiya, located 35 km away from Jamangar city, was the last stop of the roadshow and is part of Jamnagar (rural) constituency, which in turn is a segment of Jamnagar Lok Sabha seat.
Hardik, who had stepped down as the convenor of PAAS and formally joined Congress last month, however, rarely referred to his quota agitation days, so much so that he even desisted from shouting “Jai Sardar” slogan until a young supporter requested him to do so at Varna village, his 11th stop.
At Dhudasiya, however, Hardik recalled his days as the head of Patidar quota agitation that he had launched in 2015. Recalling his meeting at this village one-and-a-half years ago, he said: “I distinctly remember it was evening and 25,000 people had gathered for the meeting,” he said, claiming credit for 10 per cent quota announced by the central government.
He, however, attacked the BJP over its 2014 poll promise of crediting Rs 15 lakh in the bank accounts of every citizen of India by bringing back alleged black money stashed abroad. “One shouldn’t promise Rs 15 lakh if one is not able to honour it. You consider one per cent interest rate and the total accrual will be Rs 20 lakh to Rs 22 lakh. Therefore, we cannot talk (to such people) on 23rd of this month,” he said, adding, “We promise only what we are capable of doing.”
He further said, “You have supported Raghavjibhai (Patel, former Congress MLA from Jamnagar (rural) who had defected to the BJP ahead of Assembly election in 2017) for a generation. What has he done for people here. He is chairman of APMC. He is seeking commission and gives preference to his village only.”
In Falla village too, Hardik took a potshot at Raghavji: “You all voted for the Congress in 2017 and Raghavjibhai ordered to stop procurement of groundnut from this village. He also got youth of this village booked in a police case. We have fielded a good candidate who is capable of fighting for you all,” said Hardik.
Incidentally, Raghavji had lost the 2017 election from Jamnagar (rural). The BJP has fielded him from the same seat in the bypoll, which has been necessitated by resignation of Vallabh Dharaviya who defected to the BJP last month. Dharaviya had defeated Raghavji in 2017 as a Congress candidate.
He went on to raise the issues of LPG cylinder price rise, crop insurance, minimum support price for groundnut and cotton and irrigation water to farmers.
“If farmers are unhappy, where will people get food from. In the last five years, 5,000 farmers have committed suicide,” he said.
In Bharatpur, Hardik targeted Saurashtra Narmada Irrigation Avataran Yojana (SAUNI). “While I was driving, I observed that fields are dug up for laying pipeline for SAUNI. They made our fields barren for SAUNI and it is shameful that they are staging drama of giving water to farmers,” he said.
He also touched upon female foeticide, which was a big issue among Patidars till around two decades ago. “You are aware, years ago, daughters were believed to be burden and used to be killed soon after birth by drowning in a tub of milk. But community leaders took the lead, saying daughters were incarnation of goddess Saraswati and Lakshami and asking if there are no daughters, where would you get brides for your sons,” he said.
Hardik also reminded that Kandoriya had donated his 60 bigha land to Jay Dwarkadhish Dharamshala and Patidar Dharamshala in Dwarka.