Ahmedabad: Hours after the Congress said it had reached an agreement with the Patidar community group led by Hardik Patel in Gujarat, the fragility of the truce was laid bare in dramatic late-night developments. First, after an hour-long meeting between the two sides, the Congress announced a list of 77 candidates for next month’s state elections featuring 19 members of the community that is campaigning for quotas in government jobs and colleges, including two aides of Hardik Patel.
Then came the storm. Members of the group called PAAS or Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti attacked Congress offices in Surat, alleging that the two leaders of the movement had been included in the list without their consent, sending signals to their base that a deal had been struck when none had. A large number of policemen were brought in to prevent a similar scene at the Congress headquarters in Ahmedabad.
“Congress announced the names without our permission. We will launch a state-wide agitation against the Congress,” Dinesh Bhambhani, a member of the core committee of the PAAS, said.
Releasing the list featuring Lalit Vasoya and Nilesh Patel, two associates of Hardik Patel, the Congress had declared that the two sides have come to a consensus on the reservation formula and a formal announcement of the PAAS backing the Congress will be made by Mr Patel in Rajkot on Monday. The 24-year-old Patidar leader did not attend the meeting.
The announcement appeared to cap special efforts by the Congress to win the support of the crucial Patidar community – staunch BJP supporters for decades – ahead of state elections in state ruled by the BJP for 22 years.
Hardik Patel had made it clear that the BJP’s lack of support to their demands will cost it during the elections. But he also made his support to the Congress conditional – demanding that Patidars brought under the 27 per cent quota for Other Backward Classes. Over the weeks, the young leader has delivered many ultimatums which he later cancelled.