Hardik Patel’s six-month exile over sedition cases ends, to reach Gujarat today
The firebrand Patidar leader will arrive in Gujarat from Rajasthan’s Udaipur on Tuesday, after completing the six-month exile imposed upon him by the state high court in connection with two sedition cases.india Updated: Feb 14, 2017 07:07 IST
Firebrand Patidar leader Hardik Patel will arrive in Gujarat from Rajasthan’s Udaipur on Tuesday, after completing the six-month exile imposed upon him by the state high court in connection with two sedition cases.
The Patidar Ananmat Anadolan Samiti (PAAS), an outfit founded by Hardik prior to his rise as a political force in Gujarat in late 2015, will welcome him with a massive car rally at the Gujarat-Rajasthan border. It will culminate in a public event at Himmatnagar, located less than 100 km from Ahmedabad.
Later, Hardik will meet former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bête noire and founder of the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP). Although the GPP merged with the BJP in 2014, Keshubhai recently lauded Hardik’s efforts at launching the stir for OBC quota in college admissions and government jobs.
“PAAS volunteers and other Patidars will drive over 5,000 cars to the Gujarat-Rajasthan border to welcome Hardik,” said Dinesh Bambhania, PAAS convenor for Gandhinagar. “We will then take our leader to Himmatnagar, where he will address a public rally. More than one lakh people are expected to attend.”
Bambhania and four other aides were also arrested for sedition in October 2015.
One of the most significant political meetings Hardik had during his exile was with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in December. Though the Patidar leader invited Kumar to address a farmers’ rally in Gujarat in late January, the latter politely turned down his request – citing the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Hardik’s OBC agitation has put the ruling BJP government in a fix because it views the Patidar community as a crucial vote bank. The party even lost rural votes in the 2015 local body polls, held in the wake of the Patidar agitation.
A wary BJP then attempted to pacify the agitators by announcing 10% reservation for the economically backward class. However, with the Supreme Court striking down the quota ordinance, the BJP is now trying its best to salvage its position in the assembly polls – the first since Modi moved to Delhi – to be held at the end of this year.
The Patidar agitation, which began in July 2015, culminated in public demonstrations that led to incidents of violence and arson across the state. On October 19 that year, Hardik was booked by Gujarat police under sedition charges for allegedly advising Patidar youth to kill policemen instead of committing suicide.