GUJARAT: Hardik Patel has put forward a set of demands before the Congress, including an assurance about reservation for the Patidars in government jobs and educational institutions, as a condition for supporting the party in the Gujarat Assembly polls.
Sources in the Congress party said that the Patel quota stir leader sought a maximum number of tickets for Patidar candidates in constituencies where the community has dominant presence.
The 24-year-old spearhead of ‘Patidar Anamat Andolan’, during his talks with Congress’ in-charge for Gujarat Ashok Gehlot on Monday sought greater representation in the party’s organisational set up for politically influential Patels, who hitherto backed the BJP, they said.
Mr. Patel, sources said, termed the representation of Patels in the Congress’ organisational structure in Gujarat as “minimal”.
The Patidar community leader pitched for constitutional protection to the provision of reservation for them so as to preclude a judicial review. “Had a good meeting with Hardik Patel and his colleagues,” Mr. Gehlot tweeted last night.
Mr. Patel, who is not eligible to contest either an Assembly or Lok Sabha election as the minimum age for it is 25 years, also told mediapersons that he had gone to a hotel here to meet Mr. Gehlot, a former Rajasthan chief minister, and present his demands before the Congress party.
Alpesh Thakor, a prominent backward class leader and ’Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena convenor’, had joined the Congress in the presence of its vice president Rahul Gandhi on Monday.
Roping in Patel’s organisation may further bolster the Congress’ efforts to retake Gujarat from the BJP, which has ruled the State without a break for over 22 years now.
Speculation was rife on Monday that Mr. Patel had also met Rahul Gandhi, who was present inside the hotel when he was holding talks with Mr. Gehlot.
Mr. Patel, who had denied having met Mr. Gandhi, said on Tuesday that he would meet the Congress leader during his next tour of the State. TV channels aired CCTV footage from outside the 5 star hotel which showed Mr. Patel entering and leaving the hotel.
Soon after the footage was released, Mr. Gehlot tweeted that Mr. Patel had come to meet him, and in a series of posts on the microblogging website accused the BJP government of snooping on them.
“The rooms which hv been booked in my name are being checked. We are openly saying, we have met them n will keep meeting them in future too,” he said.
“Why CCTV footage was taken by IB n police from Hotel? Is the right to privacy, sole proprietorship of JayAmitShah?” Mr. Gehlot said in another tweet.
Hardik alleged in a tweet: “BJP is expert in snooping. They used to snoop on Sanjay Joshi (BJP leader) and now they are snooping on me.”
The BJP has been calling Mr. Patel an “agent” of the Congress who was trying to “mislead” people of his community.
Congress spokesman Manish Doshi said Hardik Patel was told that, if voted to power, a survey would be conducted to provide reservation to the community without touching the 49% quotas for the Scheduled Castes, Schedule Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
He said Mr. Patel was also assured that action would be taken against police officials who committed “atrocities” against Patidars during their quota stir in August 2015. Mr. Doshi said an assurance was also made to him that the kin of those who were killed during the agitation will be adequately compensated.
Ten people had been killed in police action when the quota stir turned violent.