Gujarat Congress threatens to observe day-long fast in solidarity with Hardik Patel, doesn't mention quota demand
The Gujarat Congress on Thursday announced that it would observe a 24-hour fast on Friday in support of Hardik Patel if the state government did not begin talks with the Patidar leader.
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Congress on Thursday announced that it would observe a 24-hour fast on Friday in support of Hardik Patel if the state government did not begin talks with the Patidar leader. Hardik's fast, launched by him on 25 August at his farmhouse near here, entered its 13th day on Thursday as the visibly weak Patidar leader was seen being moved around in a wheelchair. Doctors from the Sola Civil hospital, after an examination, advised him to immediately get admitted for medical treatment.
As many as 30 state Congress leaders, including the party's state unit chief Amit Chavda, Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly Paresh Dhanani and around 25 MLAs, met Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in connection with Hardik's fast on Thursday. The Congress delegation demanded that the state government begin negotiations with the Patidar leader and accept his demands concerning farm loan waiver. "If the government does not give a positive response to our demand, the Congress will sit on a 24-hour fast at each district headquarters of the state from 11 am tomorrow in Hardik's support," Dhanani told reporters at Gandhinagar after meeting Rupani. "The government should immediately start talks with Hardik and sort out the issues raised by him," he said. The Congress's memorandum, submitted to Rupani, however, did not make any mention of the quota demand for the Patidar community.
Hardik's Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) had on Wednesday night threatened that he would stop taking water if the government did not begin the negotiations within 24 hours. Following the completion of the deadline to the government, Hardik on Thursday stopped drinking water, a PAAS leader said. "We feel that the BJP government is not interested in the issues concerning the farmers and the people of Gujarat. Since it has not expressed its willingness even after the expiry of our ultimatum, Hardik has now stopped taking water," PAAS convener Manoj Panara said. Talking to reporters at Hardik's residence on Thursday evening, he said the Patidar leader would continue to abstain from consuming water till the state government came forward for talks.
While the BJP government in Gujarat has asked Hardik several times to call off his fast, it has not cleared its stand on talking to the Patidar leader over his demands. Reacting to the Congress leaders' meeting with the chief minister, Gujarat revenue minister Kaushik Patel said the government had not received any official representation from the PAAS to hold talks with Hardik. "A few days back, we had appealed to the Patidar leaders, who came to meet us over this issue, to convince Hardik to end his fast. The government is also worried about Hardik. However, they (PAAS and Hardik) did not listen to the senior community leaders," the minister told reporters.
Putting the onus on the Congress to clear its stand on the issue of reservations, he said, "Even today, we have asked Dhanani to persuade Hardik to end his fast. We will think about holding talks with the PAAS if they make a representation to us." Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani also tried to corner the Congress over the issue, claiming that the party's double standards were exposed as there was no mention of reservation for the Patidars in its memorandum submitted to the chief minister. "The Congress as well as the agitators are diverting the issue. Now, they are not talking about reservation to Patidars under the OBC quota. If the Congress has the guts, it must put it in writing that it is in favour of including the Patidars in the current quota meant for the OBCs. "This agitation is a pressure tactic. The government has to keep in mind the interests of all the communities. The Congress is playing politics. It is up to the agitators and the Congress to decide what they want to do about the fast. The BJP and the government have no role in it," he said.
Patel is on an indefinite fast demanding reservations in government jobs and education for the Patidar community as well as waiver of farmers' loans.
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