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'Will slap him': Patidars upset with Hardik Patel for fighting on BJP ticket

Hardik Patel, who led the Patidars' agitation in 2015 for reservation, joined the BJP earlier this year and will contest on the 'Lotus' symbol in the upcoming election for Virmagam Assembly constituency.

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Hardik Patel, who led Patidars' agitation in 2015 for reservation, joined the BJP earlier this year. (FILE PHOTO)

By Dev Ankur Wadhawan: Patel community members in Gujarat, who have witnessed the widespread agitation for reservations by the Patidars in 2015, are an unhappy lot. The reason for their ire: Hardik Patel, who led the Patidars' agitation in 2015 for reservation, joined the BJP earlier this year and will contest on the 'Lotus' symbol in the upcoming election for Virmagam Assembly Constituency.

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Hardik had agitated under the banner of Patidar Anamat Sangharsh Samiti (PASS) and demanded the inclusion of Patidars in Gujarat in the OBC list. He had accused the BJP government in the state of acting in a dictatorial manner. Later, he joined the Congress while continuing with his agitation and was known to be a vocal critic of the BJP, PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah over several issues before joining the saffron party earlier this year in the run-up to the Assembly election next month.

The Patidar agitation in Gujarat, which had turned violent, witnessed arson, chaos and mayhem as young agitators ran amok and there was a loss of life and property.

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India Today spoke with Praveenbhai Patel and his wife, who lost their young 23-year-old son Neeseej Patel, during the Patidar agitation.

"My son had gone out to buy milk when the police began firing which hit him and he passed away. He had no involvement in the protest. He was only 24 years old then. The police had resorted to firing. Hardik Patel never came to meet us after my son's death. Politicians and political parties grow big even as common people suffer. They are there to serve themselves only," Praveenbhai Patel mentioned to India Today.

Several of the Patidars claimed that the community feels cheated by Hardik's "betrayal". The agitation in 2015 witnessed the loss of 14 lives. They mentioned that the community had been used by Hardik Patel for his personal gains and that he was a traitor to the community of Patidars.

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Another Patidar, 38-year-old Pratik Patel, used to be a young, chirpy, healthy man with dreams in his eyes and more than a spring in his step seven years ago when the Patidar agitation had picked pace in the state. But he is left mostly brooding for days, cursing his fate.

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Prateek's family claims he had gone to get fuel for his two-wheeler at the fuel station during which he was caught in the melee. Prateek was allegedly hit by a bullet in police firing during the agitation in Mehsana which sent him to Coma which lasted for more than a month and he was paralysed on the right side of his body.

"I do not recall what happened to me as I do not have memories, but my family members have told me that I had gone to buy petrol and I was hit by the bullet which was fired by the police. It hit me in the head. I was fortunate that I stayed alive. I need support for my treatment. Hardik Patel has used the Patidar community for his own gains. If I went to see Hardik, then I would give him two slaps. He is a traitor to the community.", Prateek Patel mentioned to India Today.

"I have spent Rs 70-75 lakhs on my son's treatment. I spent it selling my belongings. Out of that, only a fraction has been given by the state government and that too was given when Anandiben Patel was the chief minister. We are in need of help now," Babubhai Patel, father of Prateek Patel, told India Today.

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Some also mentioned that leaders of the Patidar agitation, including Hardik Patel, had sworn that they would not join electoral politics, but only Hardik Patel reneged on his promise. Laljibhai Patel, like several other Patidars, too is filled with seething anger. He manages the Sardar Patel Group (SPG) in Gujarat. Laljibhai maintains that several of them had cases filed against them but had sworn against joining any political party and that it was only Hardik Patel who betrayed the cause.

"We have decided that we will not enter electoral politics. There was a lot of anger among the Patidar community members in Gujarat after Hardik Patel joined the BJP, the same party against which he had made several remarks and was accused of working in a dictatorial manner," Laljibhai stated.

"Some of us, including Hardik Patel, had cases filed against us which were filed when the BJP was in power. The cases against us are still there. Hardik Patel's joining BJP is an act of betrayal. There is a lot of anger against him in the Patidar community.", another member of the Patel community mentioned to India Today.