December 14, 2016 3:09:06 am
PATIDAR AGITATION leader Hardik Patel is headed back to Gujarat, with a court-imposed restriction due to end. Having spearheaded the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti that launched a movement for reservation for Patels in Gujarat, he has since formed the Akhil Bharatiya Patel Navnirman Sena seeking to unite various communities in a number of states — Kurmi, Gujjar, Maratha, who he stresses are sub-castes of Patels. Hardik spoke to The Indian Express in New Delhi before leaving for Patna:
When you were granted bail in July, you were asked to stay out of Gujarat for six months. So what kind of a comeback are you planning?
The six months end on January 17. On January 28, we will hold a big rally of farmers in Botak, Saurashtra. This will be a big-bang exercise, bada dhamaka karoonga.
You have planned your rally when assembly elections are round the corner. Do you foresee a change of guard in a state that has been ruled by the BJP for four consecutive terms?
There is anger among the public. I will not say myself that power will change hands. But let the time come, we will definitely show that a change of power happens even without saying anything.
Some say the Gujarat polls will be a semifinal before the 2019 general elections. Do you agree?
Yes, definitely it will. It’ not a semifinal but the final.
Whom have you invited to your rally?
I am inviting many non-Congress and non-BJP leaders, leaders who believe in socialism such as chief ministers Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda. I am confident that they will come.
Will you invite Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal?
I will think it over. All these leaders are now working in their respective regions.
Do you also plan such programmes outside of Gujarat? Any in Delhi?
I will definitely go outside Gujarat. Right now no programme has been decided for Delhi but I will definitely do some programme in the national capital. I will visit everywhere, mobilise people.
Dalit agitation leader Jignesh Mewani met you recently. Do you plan to consolidate other communities with Patels?
Patel, tribal, Dalit, Muslim — all will fight together in Gujarat. We are fighting for our rights not to oppose anyone or uproot anyone from power, we are fighting for our rights. Leaders of all communities will participate. As a Patel, I should fulfil my duty to the community to which I belong. When it comes to the nation and its interest, I will connect with all communities and everybody will connect with us.
Other than fighting the BJP, are there any really issues which you will fight on?
The basic issue for the Patels was that they should get reservation. Patels have demanded nothing since Independence. When today we are seeking something that we deeply need, atrocities are being committed on our community in Gujarat… Farmers should get their due when their land is acquired, youths are unemployed and restless, we are bringing companies in the name of Vibrant Gujarat but jobs are not being created, government workers are being exploited. There are many issues.
What role can Nitish Kumar play in this?
First of all, he is the chief minister of a state. Second, he had supported us, He is also a Kurmi. In every other state, Kurmis are getting OBC reservation, so it should also happen in Gujarat.
Will the Patel quota issue have any national resonance?
There are 1.2 crore Patels in Gujarat alone. In the country, Kurmi, Gujjar, Maratha, Patil, Patidar, Kaapu and other sub-castes number around 27 crore. All of them belong to the same community.
After the January 29 rally, what next?
Plans for the future are not told. But you will see me everywhere, standing with people on social issues, problems of farmers and atrocities of Dalits, unifying socialist forces.
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