GANDHINAGAR : After nine months in jail and with a pensive Gujarat government on alert, Hardik Patel, the face of the Patidar reservation stir, walked out to a victor’s welcome, counseling patience laced with a steely resolve to continue the stir.
Straining at the leash of a High Court imposed restraint order which grants him only 48 hours in his home state before he must leave for a six month ’banwas’, Hardik ‘s legion of supporters have chalked out a break-neck programme to make the best of this window of respite.
He will cover 2,150 km over the next 48 hours, addressing 12 public meetings, seven road shows and two major rallies, a spokesperson of his organization, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) said on Friday adding that he will address 1.5 million people in these two days in the state. A 500-car convoy is to follow Hardik and vans are on standby in case of a breakdown. Almost a 1000 PAAS volunteers will ensure crowd management.
Transformed into a virtual cult figure by his extended incarceration on charges of sedition, Hardik, on his release from Lajpore prison in Surat gave clear indications of the direction he was headed when he stated, “I don’t want a 56 inch chest but rights for my community and the agitation shall continue until the goal is achieved”.
Coupled with what followed later when he expressed his desire to enlighten the Kurmis, as the Patidars are known in the northern belt made it clear that a larger community mobilisation was on his mind and the importance of Uttar Pradesh which goes to polls next year was not lost.
The Gujarat government, on its part is leaving no stone unturned and has ensured complete video filming of his entire 48-hour movement, post his release. There is a major police mobilization and the state headquarters will be getting a minute by minute account.
Hardik, on his part has conveyed his desire to his organization that the release may be muted in terms of celebrations since over ten people have lost their lives in the course of this agitation. His first words to anxious media persons waiting for his release was that the stir would continue, adding “I don’t want height, weight or a 56 inch chest, only to carry forward this agitation to its logical culmination”. The reference to the expansive chest dimension was a clear hark-back to present prime minister Narendra Modi’s pre-election posturing.
Patel was released after the Gujarat High Court granted him bail in two charges of sedition as well as one of rioting subject to the condition that he will remain out of Gujarat for six month and out of Mehsana district for nine months. He has been given 48 hours to leave the state after his release. He plans to make Udaipur his base for this period, fanning out countrywide in the pursuit of his objectives, sources in PAAS, said.
Hardik, however, warned political parties not to think of deriving political benefits out of this stir. “It won’t help. This agitation is not the property of any political party nor will this stir stop merely because I or anyone else wants it. He was categorical that they would utilise what has been given-10 per cent OBC quota-but it is not enough and our demand for OBC quota for our community stands”, he added.
Hardik also made it clear that he was open to talk s with the government. “Our demand remains unaltered-reservation under the OBC quota. We shall do stock-taking, discuss, analyse and arrive at our own conclusions”, he added.