Challenge to Gujarat CM as Patidars on warpath

Ahmedabad, Aug 25 (IANS) Keeping their promise, the agitating Patidar community on Tuesday swamped the city in a 10-km long revolution rally demanding caste reservations, posing a direct challenge to Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel.

Hundreds of thousands of Patidars swooped down on the city since Monday night. Police and district officials made stringent security arrangements to avoid inconveniencing people.

The convenor of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Hardik Patel, earlier addressed the gathering of an estimated more than a million supporters at the sprawling GMDC Ground and vowed that the demand for reservations was non-negotiable.

“We can also do a ‘Kejriwal’ here… If no reservations, then no Lotus (BJP symbol) in 2017,” Patel declared.

Pointing out at the massive gathering of the community, Patel said the Patidars have proved what they are capable of doing if denied their rightful due.

Demanding that the chief minister should arrive at the venue, Patel threatened to launch an indefinite hunger strike on the dais until the government relented on the PAAS demand.

Ahmedabad Collector Rajkumar Beniwal was expected to reach the venue to accept the PAAS memorandum before the rally was taken out from GMDC Ground to the collectorate, around 10 kms away.

The chief minister, under pressure from the past few days which witnessed scores of smaller rallies across the state as a warm-up to Tuesday’s rally, was closeted in an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the issue which has grave political implications.

Top police officers, including city commissioner Shivanand Jha and others personally supervised the security arrangements during the mega-rally with instructions to the force to exercise “restraint”, even as Hardik Patel appealed to his followers to maintain peace at all costs.

Most parts of Gujarat and entire Ahmedabad observed a spontaneous shutdown of all business establishments, schools and colleges to facilitate the participation of Patidars for the rally for the day.

For the 10-km long march from GMDC to the collectorate, the police made stringent security arrangements, traffic diversions, CCTV monitoring, heightening protection for chief minister, her cabinet colleagues and important installations in the city.

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