Gujarat civic poll setback for BJP gives a boost to Patel stir | india | Hindustan Times
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Gujarat civic poll setback for BJP gives a boost to Patel stir

After its spearhead Hardik Patel was thrown into jail in October, the Patidar reservation agitation in Gujarat looked set for a slow end. But it has been given a fresh lease of life by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s rout in rural areas in the recent civic polls.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2015 12:53 IST
Hiral Dave
Hardik Patel
Youngsters wearing masks of PAAS convener Hardik Patel during a Congress campaign for Surat municipal corporation elections.(PTI file photo)

After its spearhead Hardik Patel was thrown into jail in October, the Patidar reservation agitation in Gujarat looked set for a slow end. But it has been given a fresh lease of life by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s rout in rural areas in the recent civic polls.

The community leaders see the outcome in villages as a support to their struggle to get the Patidars in the OBC reservation list and are putting their faction fights aside to regroup ahead of the 2017 assembly elections.

Soon after results were announced, the 11-member panel picked by Hardik last month joined hands with Sardar Patel Sevadal, the group led by his bete noire Lalji Patel.

“Our differences have been put aside. The new committee has 11 members each from both groups. The results show we have been able to send across the message, but there is still a long way to go and that’s why we stand united,” said Lalji.

The first task assigned to the new 22-member joint panel was to mobilise legal resources to get Hardik and his 175 supporters released from judicial custody.

Hardik and his five core team members face sedition charges while the others were booked for rioting and vandalism. Recently, the high court dropped the most serious charge of waging war againt the state.

The new team said that with Hardik’s directive to ensure the defeat of the BJP having been achieved, the next step is to rebuild the organisation ahead of 2017.

“We have 250 active members across Gujarat. The procedure to put in place city, district and taluka units has started. The aim is to mobilise Patidars, who form 14% of the total 6 crore Gujarat population, before the 2017 assembly elections,” said Atul Patel, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener in Ahmedabad.

Read: Jolt for BJP as Congress rises again in Gujarat local polls

Formed by Hardik in July, PAAS was instrumental in organising massive rallies in urban areas that jolted the Anandiben Patel government.

The BJP, which till then enjoyed the unstinted support of the Patidars, was this time at the receiving end of the community’s anger for alleged police atrocities and its refusal to negotiate with the protesters.

In the local body elections, the BJP suffered a humiliating loss to the Congress in pockets like Mandal, Bechraji(site for proposed Special Investment Region), Sanand(automobile cluster), Dholera (smart city), Mehsana and Saurashtra.

These areas, where industrial projects were initiated by Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat chief minister, were dominated by farmers from the Patidar community.

The loss in these areas has added a third dimension to the agitation, which so far focused on the quota demand and police atrocities. “The neglect of farmers and promotion of industries is our third issue against the BJP,” said Atul.

The agitating patidars are well organised, with even a social media and mobile messaging plan already in place.

“The moment Anandiben Patel said Patidars will never get reservation, the message reached 15 lakh members instantly through mobile messaging. Now, the focus is on involving the remaining people in the agitation,” said Lalji.

Read: Poll setback exposes faults in BJP’s Gujarat model, say analysts