The Gujarat Congress announced here on Friday it will support the Patidar agitation of firebrand leader Hardik Patel even as the latter is learnt to have decided to campaign for the opposition party in the 2017-end assembly elections.
This follows an evening meeting between a three-member core team of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and Gujarat Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki at the latter’s residence.
Hardik Patel, 23, has been spearheading an agitation since July 2015 for reservation to the Patels (or Patidars) in government jobs and educational institutions.
According to Solanki, “We are positive about all their demands. I am going to Delhi tomorrow (Saturday) for a meeting with Ashok Gehlot to take a formal decision on this.”
AICC General Secretary Gehlot is party’s Gujarat affairs in-charge.
“We had a fruitful meeting with the PAAS members and they were satisfied. The attitude should be positive; it is possible to consider reservation for the Patidars,” he said.
PAAS members, who represented Hardik Patel at the meeting, are Dinesh Bhambhania, Varun Patel and Manoj Patel.
Besides quota, their four demands include legal action against police officials who allegedly committed atrocities on Patels after a rally in Ahmedabad in August 2015.
They also want to compensation to the next of kin of 14 youths who died in the agitation as well as setting up of an autonomous commission for the Patidars.
“We want the Congress to fulfil these demands if the party comes to power,” Bhambhania told reporters.
He told IANS: “We are clear from the beginning that we are not with any political party. But, we will campaign against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party since it has not conceded our demands. If the Congress promises to take up our cause, we are with them.”
Meanwhile, PAAS leader Reshma Patel objected to the core committee members meeting the Congress leaders, asserting that the Patidars did not recognise them as their voice or even a core committee.
In an open letter to Hardik Patel, she urged him to constitute “an extended committee with adequate women representation and more prominent people in it”.