Firebrand Patidar leader Hardik Patel is set to return to Gujarat on Tuesday when his six-month exile in connection with sedition charges ends.
A cavalcade of around 6,000 vehicles is expected to take him from the Gujarat-Rajasthan border to Ahmedabad, showcasing his popularity.
Before his return, Hardik spoke to HT and said he would take the issue of death of 13 Patidars to every home in Gujarat and make it an election issue for polls slated later this year. Edited excerpts:
Q. You have met many political leaders including Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. Have you ever tried to approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of the agitation for OBC status to your Patidar community?
A. He (Modi) is equally responsible for the murder of 13 Patidar youths in August 2015, who were demanding nothing but reservation benefits in college admissions and government jobs. If General Dyer (as he addresses Amit Shah) issued firing orders, Modi’s silence made him equally responsible. I have no reason to try and meet him for OBC reservation or any other matter.
Q. What is your plan upon returning home after 15 months (nine months in Surat jail and six in exile in Udaipur)?
A. I will go door to door, meet Patidars as well as other communities, and let them know why we deserve reservation. I will also take the message forward that ‘let’s not spare those who killed our youths’. My campaign will begin from Patan district on January 27.
Q. Do you plan to enter active politics?
A. I am underage to contest (elections). But I will support and campaign for those who are well-wishers of our (Patidar) community. The BJP is our main enemy. I will actively campaign against Amit Shah in his constituency.
Q. What, according to you, made Anandiben Patel step down as CM in August 2016?
A. She was removed because she failed to do her duty. She had already disappointed her own Patidar community. She neither said a single word on the floor of the assembly nor passed any condolence message for the killed youths.
Q. Do you see any difference between the Anandiben and the current Vijay Rupani governments?
A. There is only one difference. The Patel government was a rubber stamp of Modi and the Rupani government is of (Amit) Shah.
Q. The OBC commission has asked PAAS to submit survey report on economic and social conditions of Patidars in response to your application seeking reservation. What is the status?
A. We are in the process to submit the necessary data to the commission. But if the state government wishes, it can help the community get the OBC status.