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‘Don’t ask me about quota’: Hardik Patel breaks silence but gives no details on Cong alliance for Gujarat elections

Hardik Patel put off the quota-related announcement for the second consecutive day on Tuesday after the Patidar body said it had reached an agreement with Congress

assembly elections Updated: Nov 21, 2017 23:18 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Gujarat elections,Hardik Patel,Patidar reservation
Hardik Patel, leader of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), addresses a rally during the 'Adhikar Sammelan' at Mansa in Gujarat. (AFP Photo)

After avoiding a formal announcement for two days on the reservation formula hammered out between his outfit and the Congress in Gujarat, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel told a Patidar rally in Dholka near Ahmedabad that he cannot predict when the community will get reservation as he was not the government.

“In order to oppose me, some people ask me when the reservation will be allotted? I should’t be asked this question. I am not the government,” he told the crowd, comprising mostly young supporters.

On the other hand, the Congress has maintained that only PAAS was responsible for making any announcement related to the quota arrangement. “The talks have been very positive. Now, it is up to the PAAS to make related announcement,” Congress state president Bharatsinh Solanki told Hindustan Times.

The PAAS, which has been up in arms against the BJP government in poll-bound Gujarat, at the end of three rounds of talks with the Congress over 20% economically backward class quota, on Sunday evening had declared that the two parties have found a solution. But before Hardik’s scheduled announcement of the same on Monday, the Congress’ first list released late Sunday night for assembly polls sparked clashes between PAAS and Congress workers in Ahmedabad and Surat.

While on Monday the Congress changed four of its candidates, including bringing in former BJP MLA Dhiru Gajera, who is believed to be a PAAS supporter, as its candidate for the Varachha Road in Surat city, Hardik put off the quota-related announcement for the second consecutive day on Tuesday.

The young Patidar leader, however, indirectly campaigned for the Congress.

“We are fools that we have the same government for 25 years. Instead we should support the one who talks about giving us jobs, affordable education and subsidy to farmers.”

Patel did not mention the Congress or its vice-president Rahul Gandhi. But Gandhi, who since September end has undertaken the four-leg Navsarjan Yatra covering all four zones in Gujarat, had raised the issue of unemployment, expensive private education and unavailability of satisfactory support price and subsidy for agriculture produce.

Two close aides of Patel and also co-conveners in PAAS, Dinesh Bambhania and Alpesh Kathiria, who on Sunday night were engaged in heated exchange with the Congress workers over ticket distribution, were not present at today’s rally. Bambhania, who alleged that the Congress included two PAAS members in its list without their consent, had also threatened to stage protest against the Congress and PAAS candidates.

When contacted on Tuesday, Bambhania told Hindustan Times: “There was some misunderstanding. It is clear now and the PAAS is united,” he said.

At Tuesday’s rally, Hardik also tried to play down the issue of reservation. “You (the OBC present at the rally) get reservation. Is anyone from you is in the police? Communities that comes under quota too do not get the jobs,” he said.

First Published: Nov 21, 2017 23:17 IST