Patel quota leader Hardik Patel today returned to Gujarat after spending six months away from his home state and launched a second round of agitation by appealing to Patels to unitedly fight against prevailing "autocracy" in the state, an oblique reference to ruling BJP.
Addressing a rally at Himmatnagar in Sabarkantha district, the 23-year-old quota spearhead vowed to fight "till end" to get the reservation rights for his brethren under OBC quota and asked them to be prepared for the repeat of "GMDC-like dangal" (fight), a reference to his 2015 rally that had galvanised Patels across the state.
"Many of us may have differences among ourselves. Some of you may not even like me due to my outspoken nature. But, let us forget all such differences and get united to fight against 'tanashahi' (autocracy) prevailing in Gujarat," said Hardik, evoking a loud cheer from crowd gathered at the rally.
Hardik's pointed attack came at a time when the state government is trying hard to solder its fractured ties with the Patel community, considered as loyal voters of the BJP.
Gujarat is going to polls later this year.
"I want to assure you that we will not rest until we get reservation. We will definitely take it. Otherwise, we will snatch it," he said.
Hardik, facing sedition charges over the violence in the first leg of the quota stir in 2015, went straight to the venue of the rally after returning from Udaipur which he had made his temporary base to comply with the pre-condition set by the High Court before granting him bail in the case.
"I am having only two main aims now. First, to get reservation rights for Patels at any cost. Secondly, I want to free you from this rule of fear prevailing in the state," the quota leader said.
He appealed to his community members to get their act together for the second round of "dangal".
"Let us come together again. I want you to reach out to every citizen living in each part of the state. Let us awake them about our cause. Let us join hands to do a GMDC-like dangal again. I am ready to address a rally at GMDC if government gives us permission," said Hardik.
In August 2015, Hardik had addressed a massive rally at GMDC ground here demanding inclusion of Patels under OBC quota. His brief detention after that rally set off violence across the state, which claimed lives of at least 10 persons.
Though he stressed that the agitation is not aimed at uprooting government, Hardik, after addressing the rally, went to Gandhinagar to seek blessings of former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who had contested the 2012 polls against the BJP when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was heading the state government. Referring to recent meeting between Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leaders and state government, Hardik took a dig at the ruling party, saying Patidars could have been given reservation under OBC quota within a day if government was willing to do so.
"As demanded by government, PAAS handed over proofs about how other states gave reservation to some communities. But, there is no word from government since then. You can now judge who is lying, Patels or government?
"If government wants, it can give reservation within one day. It is indeed possible. Government is lying when it claims that reservation cannot be given to us (under OBC category). We want reservation as described in our constitution," the quota spearhead said.
He also dared the government to play 'dangal' in any manner it wishes to.
"I am ready to play dangal, be it a legal battle or in any other form. Whatever the government suggests, I am ready," Hardik said, adding he is not having any political ambition.
He said his agitation is not aimed at uprooting anyone from "power".
"This fight is for my community. This fight is not against any person or any other community. SCs, STs and OBCs are in our support. This fight is also not aimed at uprooting someone from power. We are agitating because 14 of our youths were martyred for demanding reservation," he added.
Among others, dalit leader Jignesh Mevani also shared dais with Hardik on the occasion.
Hardik said his fight is legitimate because youths of his community are subjected to injustice despite scoring high marks in exams.
"We are happy if an OBC candidate becomes a collector. But, we are left with no other option but to protest when the son of a poor widow from my community doesn't get admission in medical despite scoring 95 per cent," he said.
From Gandhinagar, Hardik will leave for Pune to take part in 'Bharatiya Chhatra Sansad'.