Activists of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PASS), with support from the Congress and others, on Wednesday, tried to intensify their pro-reservation agitation in Gujarat on the 12th day of the indefinite fast by Hardik Patel, as leaders from non-BJP parties continued to flock to him and the BJP government tried to persuade the young leader to end his fast.
Lying on a bed in the sprawling compound of his residence, Hardik refused to be medically examined by government doctors. He also refused to undergo an ECG test or provide blood and urine samples. Doctors could only examine his blood pressure, pulse rate and weight. His supporters claimed he had lost 12 kg weight in as many days.
While doctors described his condition as “normal, not critical”, speculation about his health continued, particularly after he was caught on camera walking into and out of his house. An ICU-on-wheels has been kept in readiness along with a posse of police, outside his residence.
On Wednesday, police rounded up some of his supporters in Amreli, Vadodara, Rajkot and other districts after they tried to take out rallies to drum up support. At some places, supporters got their heads tonsured, organised bhajans and observed bandh at Visnagar in Mehsana district.
Meanwhile, rival groups of the Patidar leadership issued contradictory statements. One of them led by CK Patel, met a ministerial group led by Energy Minister Saurabh Patel, who blamed the Congress for trying to “foment unrest”, without spelling out how it would provide reservation to the Patidars as the courts had already ruled out more than 50 per cent quota.
Another Patidar group led by Manoj Panara, opposed the move, saying the state government should first accept the demands in writing to make Hardik break the fast, and dubbed CK Patel a “BJP agent”. Panara said no religious or social leaders from the community should talk with the government. On Tuesday, leaders of the Patidars’ religious and social organisations had met here to thrash out a solution.
Saurabh Patel also appealed to Hardik to end his fast and enlisted the steps the government had taken for the Patidar and other communities, including farmers.
On the other hand, non-BJP parties continued to support Hardik. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackaray called up the 25-year-old youth to support his cause. AICC in-charge of Gujarat, Rajiv Satam, accompanied by Gujarat Congress President, Amit Chawda, and Leader of the Opposition, Paresh Dhanani, met Hardik and condemned the BJP government for its “insensitivity”. Dhanani also wrote a letter to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani seeking an appointment to discuss the issue, failing which the Opposition Party would take their stir to the roads.
On Tuesday, BJP dissidents Yeshwant Sinha and Shatrughna Sinha, MP, as also former Gujarat CM Suresh Mehta, met Hardik, while former PM, HD Deve Gowda, penned a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, supporting Hardik. Former UP Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, besides other non-NDA leaders, have also expressed support to him.
On Wednesday, police arrested former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who had met Hardik recently at the venue. Bhatt has been arrested in connection with a 22-year-old case in Banaskantha district, for allegedly planting drugs to trap a Rajasthan man in order to force him to sell a property in Pali, Rajasthan. He is likely to be taken to Rajasthan by that state’s police.