After lying low for some time, Patidar reservation stir leader Hardik Patel is set for a show of strength at the Patidar Maha Panchayat at Moti Malvan village of Surendranagar district on Saturday. Hardik has been travelling in different parts of the state in recent days to mobilise support for the event. Thousands of Patidars, especially farmers from Surendranagar and surrounding districts, are expected to attend the Maha Panchayat, being organised under the aegis of PAAS.
"We are expecting 25-30,000 Patidars to attend the Maha Panchayat. We are fighting for reservation for Patidars for three years now, but the state government is dragging its feet over the issue. Tomorrow's event is to decide future strategy of our agitation so that our demand is accepted," Hardik told DNA over phone.
A senior Surendranagar police official said that tight security arrangements would be in place at Moti Malvan in view of the expected gathering. Two days ago, in an open letter to all Patidar MLAs, both from the BJP and Congress, Hardik had asked them to be there at the Maha Panchayat to show their support to the community.
"If you are not there, we will assume that you are not with the community in this fight for reservation," Hardik had said in the letter. DNA spoke with more than a dozen Patidar MLAs belonging to the Congress, and most of them confirmed that they would be attending. However, any BJP leaders are unlikely to be there.
Talking with reporters two days ago, State BJP president Jitu Vaghani described the Maha Panchayat as a Congress-sponsored event and made it clear that no one from his party would be taking part in it. A few BJP MLAs DNA spoke with also said that they would not be attending. However, Hardik sounded confident that some BJP leaders would be there. "We have invited everyone. You will know tomorrow," Hardik replied in response to a question. Deputy CM Nitin Patel, who reports claimed was set to snap ties with BJP, said that he had nothing to do with the Maha Panchayat.
"He had tried to defeat BJP's Patel candidates in the assembly elections. He is working on the Congress's agenda," he said.