Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel is likely to share the stage with Rahul Gandhi in Surat during the Congress vice-president’s visit to the city on November 3 as part of the third leg of his Navsarjan Gujarat Yatraahead of the Assembly elections. Though leaders of the Congress and Hardik-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti maintain that Hardik will join Rahul at a mega public rally in Patidar-dominated Varachha area of Surat, there is no confirmation on this from Hardik.
Congress leaders are expecting that over 50,000 people, mostly Patidars, will attend the “Parivartan Rally” in Varachha, which had witnessed violence in September after police had detained PAAS volunteers for trying to disrupt an event of state BJYM chief Rutvij Patel. Surat city Congress president Hasmukh Desai said, “We have instructed all the 23 Congress councillors of Varachha zone to spread the word about the meeting. We have learnt that Hardik will be in Surat at time, and we have contacted his close aides to invite him to Rahulji’s public meeting. We have got a positive response from them.”
Congress councillor from Varachha Dinesh Kachhadiya said, “The Jal Kranti Ground (the venue form the rally) falls in my jurisdiction, and we all are well prepared to welcome Rahul Gandhi and Hardik Patel in thepublic meeting. This is for the first time Rahul Gandhi will address a public meeting in Varachha. The event will be historical as Hardik Patelwill share the stage with him. The Patidar community has voted for the Congress in the 2015 municipal elections as a result of which, for the first time 23 councillors from the Congress were elected from the Patidar-dominated area of Varachha.”
Three Assembly constituencies fall under Varachha — Varachha, Karanj and Kamrej. Surat PAAS co-convener Dharmik Malaviya too said, “Hardik Patel will be in Surat on November 3. Hardik will definitely remain present in the public meeting and share dais with Rahul Gandhi.”
However, when contacted Hardik remained non-committal about sharing dais with the Congress leader. He told The Indian Express, “I have not yet decided on sharing the dais with Rahul Gandhi in Surat. I am a Patidar first, not a Congress leader.” Rahul’s third phase of Navsarjan Yatra will cover south Gujarat between November 1 and 3.