Ahmedabad, September 1 : Hardik Patel’s indefinite fast has entered eighth day on Saturday as the young leader announced that he had now stopped taking water.Union Minister and RPI leader Ramdas Athawale has come out in support of Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who is on indefinite fast demanding reservation for the community in jobs and education, and offered to mediate between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in favour of his demand for reservations for the Patidar community, even as he advocated 75 per cent reservations in the country.
The Patidar leader wrote on Twitter that he would fight but not accept defeat. “Earlier, I was following the path of Bhagat Singh, but now I m following Mahatma Gandhi’s footsteps. Let us see whether its the government that wins or the Mahatma,” he wrote.
Protests were held in Gondal in Rajkot, in his support. In Bhavnagar, Patidars made a representation to the district collector after they were denied permission to hold a protest in his support.The 25-year-old quota spearhead had launched his hunger strike on August 25 on the third anniversary of his mega pro-quota rally in Ahmedabad that had turned violent.
He is demanding a loan waiver for Gujarat farmers and inclusion of his community in the OBC category to facilitate reservation for its members in government jobs and educational institutions.
Athawale, whose Republican Party of India is an ally in the NDA Government, told reporters that “my party firmly supports the reservation demand of the Patels in Gujarat, Marathas in Maharashtra, Jats in Haryana, and Gurjars in Rajasthan”.
“In the past, I have put up these demands to the central government. Once again, I will do that,” the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment said.Athawale said, ” I am ready to arrange a meeting between him and Modi for their reservation demand.”
In a statement, Hardik said that though he has stopped taking food and water, he will continue his fight till he attains victory by walking on the path of Mahatma Gandhi.
Several Gujarat Congress leaders, including Kanu Kalsaria, former state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia and MLA Vikram Madam, met Hardik and extended their support.
After his meeting with Hardik, Modhwadia took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP, saying that if the government could hold talks with separatists, then why not with Hardik.
Asked if he would meet Hardik Patel, who is on a fast at his residence for the past six days in support of his demands, the minister said: “I have not met him so far, just shook hands once but that has no meaning. I will try to contact him and may meet him.”
Athawale admitted that the BJP lost many seats in the December 2017 State Assembly elections in Gujarat because of the Hardik Patel agitation for reservation to the Patidars in government jobs and educational institutions. However, he claimed a similar trend would not be noticed in the State in the Lok Sabha elections next year.
Simultaneously, the union minister also said, “The BJP may lose two-three Lok Sabha seats out of 26 in the State but not more.” In 2014, the ruling party had captured all the 26 seats.
Speaking on reservations, he went on to say that a legislation should be brought in Parliament to increase reservations to 75 per cent to accommodate communities such as the Patidars and others.
“My party firmly believes that such communities should be given 25 per cent reservation from the remaining 50 per cent, without affecting the present quota for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes.”
Athawale was in Ahmedabad to discuss reservation status for the De-notified Tribes (DNT), which had been certified by the British as criminal tribes and which consisted of about 10 per cent of the population.
He said though a majority of these tribes had been included in the OBCs, they were not the benefits of reservations. The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry was working on classifying them under a separate quota to ensure they were not left out of the quota benefits.