Mehsana in Gujarat, the home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel, is on the boil again. Lalji Patel (39), who mentored Patidar OBC quota movement leader Hardik Patel, was injured on Sunday during clashes between Patidars and police, prompting community leaders to observe Gujarat bandh on Monday.
In an exclusive interview with HT from a hospital in Mehsana, this farmer says that Patidars are disappointed with the PM and that the community will vote out the BJP from power in the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections.
Patels have been staunch supporters of the BJP for three decades now. Do you think the handling of the quota issue by the state government will have any impact on the outcome of the 2017 assembly elections?
Definitely. The BJP is not going to come back to power. The issue will not only affect the BJP in the state, but also impact the party at the Centre. Youths have been charged with sedition for demanding their rights, protesters have been lathicharged and unsuspecting women and elders were beaten up by the police inside their homes. Patidars will give an answer to the BJP in the coming elections.
So, do Patels feel let down by Narendra Modi?
It has been a year since the agitation started but there has been no response from Modi. The PM should have intervened directly. We had elected them and now we will vote them out. We will support the party that accepts our demand for reservation.
The CM had said on Sunday that such agitations keep on happening. Do you think the situation would have been handled differently by any other chief minister?
The Anandiben government has from the very beginning taken an indifferent stand on the demands of her own community. Besides, seven Patidars are ministers in the Gujarat government. The top rung in the BJP has many leaders who are Patidars. On one hand the government calls for negotiations, on the other they do not let agitators even hold a protest. We believe any other leader would have handled the situation differently.
Do you think internal issues of the BJP (reported differences between Anandiben and party chief Amit Shah) are delaying the solution to the issue?
The BJP today is ridden with factionalism. That is also one of the reasons why the leaders have not been able to take a call on the Patidar issues.
Have you met Modi and Shah to discuss the issues?
We have made representations at every level.
The state government and BJP have maintained that reservation to Patels is not possible under constitutional provisions. What’s your take on that?
The Haryana government has proved that it is possible.