Call it political expediency or succumbing to Patidars in view of the crucial 2022 Assembly polls, the Gujarat Government has assured them that it would withdraw all criminal cases against the community’s youngsters pending since the reservation agitation.
The assurance was given by Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel during a meeting with a delegation of the Patidar community on Monday.
Dinesh Bhambhania, who was at the forefront of Hardik Patel’s agitation, told reporters that the Chief Minister assured them to withdraw all pending cases after his return from Dubai for a roadshow to attract investments in Gujarat.
“The Chief Minister said he would have a meeting with his Cabinet colleagues and take a decision,” he said.
Significantly, Bhambhania claimed that Patel also promised them to take a “decision at an appropriate time on the two pending cases of sedition” against Hardik Patel and Alpesh Kathiria.
The Chief Minister’s assurance comes in the backdrop of influential Patidar leader and chairman of Khodaldham Trust Naresh Patel dropping hints of his plunging into politics. Though he hasn’t indicated which party he would join, Patel had tongues wagging when he met senior Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki 48 hours ago.
That the BJP would eventually have to warm up to the Patidars was clear right from the day Bhupendra Patel was brought in as the Chief Minister in September.
The party had seen the pitfalls of rubbing the Patidars on the wrong side in the wake of the Hardik Patel agitation when it first suffered severe setbacks in the local body elections in December 2015 and then in the 2017 State Assembly elections.
The party realises that if it wished to fulful its long-unfulfilled ambition of capturing all the 182 seats in Gujarat it could ill-afford to ignore the Patidars.
The withdrawal of the cases would also deprive the opposition parties from using the emotive issue of alleged atrocities against the Patidar youth during the reservation agitation, that left 14 people dead.
Albeit, Hardik Patel, who is now a Congress leader, has already claimed credit for the 10% OBC quota for non-reserved communities and the setting up the Non-reserved classes economic development corporation in Gujarat.
As of now, 146 criminal cases, including two of sedition, against the Patidars are pending. As many as 485 cases were slapped on them between 2015 and 2017, and some 228 of them have already been withdrawn.