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Hardik Patel wants his protest to go India-wide

Hardik Patel, the 22-year-old leader who led the Patel community’s movement for reservation in Gujarat, arrived in Delhi on Sunday and said he won’t allow any political party to join his agitation.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2015 00:01 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji & Mallica Joshi
Saubhadra Chatterji & Mallica Joshi
Hindustan Times
Hardik Patel,Patel quota stir,Gujarat quota stir
Hardik Patel, convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) speaks during a press conference, in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI Photo)

Hardik Patel, who is spearheading the Patidar quota stir in Gujarat, plans to take the movement national, he announced in Delhi on Sunday. His immediate target, he told HT, was to unify different communities sharing the same caste lineage across states.

“In the last seven days, I could only show my strength. Now we need to bring all our brothers on board from different states. I came to Delhi to start that process. We will go to 27 states,” the 22-year-old said.

Threatening a “large-scale agitation” against the Centre in October, he earlier told a press conference, “We are planning protests in Jantar Mantar and in Lucknow. We want to take our movement across the nation. This is not a 100-meter race, it is a marathon.”

However, his ambitions met with some resistance. At a meeting with Gujjars, some community leaders questioned Patel’s credibility and trustworthiness as he had earlier supported quota for Jats — a demand they vehemently oppose. Patel later denied these charges, saying, “I never supported Jats. I personally feel all quotas should go. But millions of people think otherwise. So, I want reservation for my community as well.”

Patel identified himself as a “Kurmi-Gujjar”, claiming that in different states his community is known by various names like Patels or Gujjars.

Talking to HT, Patel admitted his family had close ties with the BJP but added, “I do not belong to any political party. I have no intention to form one.

I am fighting for a social cause.”

The Patidars, a largely wealthy business community, are demanding reservation in education and jobs. They held a massive rally in Ahmedabad on Tuesday that led to two days of violence across the state in which 10 people were killed. As he did at the Ahmedabad rally, Patel criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government on Saturday. “We sent big leaders to the Centre but they are not ours anymore. We don’t want them either,” he said.

Reminded about the PM’s appeal for peace and talks, Patel said, “As PM, he may have done the right thing. But I will not enter into any negotiation with the government behind closed doors.” He squarely blamed the police for the violence in Gujarat.

Patel also said Modi’s plans for a 182-meter-tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel did not “impress” the community. “Don’t use Sardar Patel to further your agenda,” he said.

First Published: Aug 30, 2015 10:45 IST