By Swati Bhan
In classical warfare, a reliable ploy for weakening the enemy is to push him into a corner and allow his supporters to flee. Once isolated, the person has just two options: surrender or perish. Working on this strategy, the Gujarat government is trying hard to break Patidar leader Hardik Patel's resolve and bring him to table to discuss the community's demand for reservation at par with OBCs.
On Monday, the Ahmedabad police filed a 2,700-page chargesheet against Patel and three of his associates. Patel has been accused instigating violence, bringing the state to a standstill and damaging government properties worth Rs 40-crore during a protest in August 2015.
To substantiate its charges, the police submitted records of phone conversations between Patel and other leaders of the agitation to establish that the August riots were instigated with the intention of destabilising peace in the state. This is the second chargesheet against Patel. He has been in jail since October on charges of sedition filed against him by the Surat police.
Cops are tightening their grip on Patel even as the 23-year-old leader of the Patidar agitation for quota benefits is showing signs of giving up his opposition to discussions with the state government.
After ruling out talks with the government on the community's demand for reservation (or to abolish it completely), in the past week, Patel had indicated that he is willing to discuss the issue. "We are in favour of negotiations," Patel said on Friday outside Vijapur court in Mehsana, where he was produced in connection with the sedition charges he is facing.
Patel, who had earlier refused to accept anything other than reservation at par with the OBCs for Patidars, showed signs of softening his stand after the government withdrew 79 cases against members of the Patidar community for participating in the violent August stir. The government had filed more than 350 cases against members of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti members.
Patel's willingness to negotiate with the government, however, doesn't mean that the Patidars have given up their quest for quota benefits. On Monday, senior Patidar leader and Patel's mentor Lalji Patel once reiterated that the community would not relent before the quota demands are met.
Analysts believe the government is keen to break the impasse and strike a deal with the Patidars before the countdown to the 2017 Assembly elections begins in Gujarat. The recent elections to local bodies, municipalities and panchayats, where the BJP lost a lot of ground to the Congress, have made the government wary of letting the stir continue in an election year. So, it wants to break the deadlock and find a quick resolution to the problem through its policy of being soft on the community and going hard at Patel.