Congress-Hardik Patel deal in Gujarat hangs in balance after clashes over seats greet party’s poll list

Congress-Hardik Patel deal in Gujarat hangs in balance after clashes over seats greet party's poll list

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Congress says reached deal with Hardik Patel over Patidar reservation.

A shaky Patidar reservation deal finalised between the Congress and Hardik Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) in Gujarat seemed to be teetering on the brink Sunday night after the party announced its first list of candidates for the state’s upcoming Assembly election.

Early Sunday evening, India Today reported that the Congress and PAAS had arrived at a deal over quotas for the Patidar community and that the firebrand PAAS leader Hardik Patel would announce the details of the agreement at a rally today.

Hours later, the Congress released its first list of 77 candidates for the forthcoming 182-seat Gujarat election. The list included two PAAS leaders (Lalit Vasoya from Dhoraji and Amit Thummar from Junagadh seat).

There were also unconfirmed reports that one more PAAS member had been accommodated in the list while news agency PTI reported that around 20 other Patel candidates, none them PAAS members, were given Congress tickets to fight the first phase of the two-part Gujarat polls.

The low number of PAAS candidates in the Congress’s first list seemingly angered members of the Hardik Patel-led organisation. While Patel, who Congress said would formally announce support at a rally in Rajkot, remained mum, members of his reservation movementclashed with supporters of the grand old party in some areas of Gujarat and held protests in other regions.

PAAS members attacked Congress offices in at least two places – Surat and Bhavnagar – while in Ahmedabad, there was ruckus outside the home of the party’s state chief Bharatsinh Solanki.

“The Congress has given tickets to two of our members without taking us into confidence. Other Patel candidates that they have selected are bogus. We will hold a massive protests against Congress,” a local PAAS convenor Alpesh Kathiria was quoted as saying by PTI.

According to local news channel TV9 Gujarati, clashes and protests were also reported other areas such as Junagadh, Amerli and Morbi.

In Surat, PAAS members attacked a local Congress office, clashing with party cadre in the Varachha Road Assembly constituency. The Congress picked its own leader – Praful Togadiya – to fight from Varachha Road.

In visuals shared by ANI on Twitter, the two factions could be seen getting into a fistfight. A Congress office nearby was also ransacked by PAAS members.

“Our community members have not been given proper representation in the list that has been declared. We will not allow any Congress office to function in the state,” Surat city PAAS convenor Dharmik Malaviya was quoted as saying by PTI.

Meanwhile, in Ahmedabad, police presence was beefed up outside the home of Bharatsinh Solanki, the Gujarat Congress chief. According to a report in local daily Divya Bhaskar, prominent PAAS leader Dinesh Bhambhani attempted meeting Solanki late in the night at his residence and got into a quarrel with the policemen posted at the Congress state chief’s home.

Speaking to reporters outside Solanki’s residence, Bhambhani claimed the PAAS was not consulted by the Congress before the latter released its list.

News agency ANI quoted the Patidar leader as saying PAAS would ask its leaders who were given tickets by the Congress not to file nominations. “We will oppose the Congress party,” Bhambhani said, adding, “We will mull over giving support to Congress.”

Interestingly, Bhambhani is the same leader who earlier on Sunday had effectively confirmed that Hardik Patel would ask Patidars to lend their support to Congress. “A formal announcement about Congress’s formula (on reservation for Patidars) and the other issues on which consensus has been reached will be announced by Hardik in a rally in Rajkot on Monday evening,” he had said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has announced 106 candidates so far, has been in power in Gujarat for over two decades. This year’s election, however, will be the first to be held after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a four-time Gujarat Chief Minister, left Gandhinagar for New Delhi in 2014.

 

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