The Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel seems to be inching closer to an alignment with the Congress ahead of the Assembly elections in Gujarat.
Though a meeting between Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Mr. Patel is unlikely during Mr. Gandhi’s three-day yatra in the State from November 1 to 3, an alliance between his organisation, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), and the Congress is a near certainty.
On Monday, at the first formal meeting between Patidar and Congress leaders, the two sides discussed reservation for the Patidar community, among other issues. Immediately after the deliberations, in which he was not present, Mr. Patel announced that the meeting was positive and there would be another round of talks on the quota issue.
Mr. Patel also noted the Congress’s offer to withdraw all cases, including those of sedition, appoint a Special Investigation Team to probe police excesses during the 2015 agitation, and set up a Savarna Vikas Aayog (an upper caste development authority) with a budget of ₹2,000 crore. He also referred to the Congress leaders’ offer to arrange a compensation of ₹35 lakh for each family that lost a member in police firing.
Mr. Patel said that Congress leaders agreed to consult lawyers and experts in order to frame a Bill to provide quota that can withstand the scrutiny of the law.
Mr. Patel was talking to journalists in Rajkot after the first formal meeting between Patidar and Congress leaders.
Congress leaders, including Bharatsinh Solanki, Siddharth Patel and Arjun Modhvadia, and seven representatives of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti took part in the meeting.
On the Gujarat government’s claim that it had withdrawn 400 cases against the Patidars, Mr. Hardik Patel said: “The BJP government has withdrawn only small cases, which were false and filed to harass the community members. It is yet to withdraw the sedition cases.”
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel denounced the meeting between the Congress leaders and the PAAS members as “match-fixing.”
“It is known to the people of Gujarat that Hardik and the Congress are playing a fixed match,” Mr. Rupani said.