With the upcoming Gujarat elections turning into a keen multi-cornered contest, a motley group of politicians, Patidar activists, different organisations and several journalists have come together to rustle up an agitation of sorts with a single-point demand to restore Motera stadium after Sardar Patel from Narendra Modi Stadium.
Steered by veteran Congress leader and former union minister Dinsha Patel, who is chairman of the Sardar Patel Smarak Trust, and veteran journalist Hari Desai, the group’s first meeting was attended by the former chief minister and veteran politician Shankersinh Vaghela.
The group, significantly, also includes leaders from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and Sardar Patel Group who are angry with Patidar reservation agitation spearhead Hardik Patel embracing the BJP, against whose government he had launched the pitched movement.
The first meeting of what has been described as the Sardar Swabhiman Samiti, which will spearhead the agitation to demand the restoration of the stadium’s name after Sardar Patel, was also attended by Dalit Adhikar Manch, Jamait-e-Ulema-e-Hind, Rabari Samaj among 25 such organisations.
Convenor of Sardar Swabhiman Samiti Mithilesh Amin informed that the agitation would begin on June 12 from Bardoli in Surat district, from where Vallabhbhai Patel acquired the status of Sardar during the Independence struggle and the next day a huge protest would be organised in front of the Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera in Ahmedabad.
Addressing the well-edited meeting at the Sardar Patel Smarak Trust auditorium in Ahmedabad’s Shahibaug area, Dinsha Patel exhorted the people to be prepared for a pitched battle. “Don’t be scared, nothing will happen. At best, they can only jail us.”
Taking a jibe at Hardik Patel, he asserted, “No movement could be built out of fear. Don’t change the Sardar cap as that boy did. He was making all noises of courage and defiance. What happened? Why is he scared?”
Veteran journalist Hari Desai, who was the key speaker, elaborated on the challenges that such an agitation could throw up and how to deal with them.
During the two immediate agitation programmes on June 12 and June 13, khadi caps with the words, “Hun chhu Sardar (I am Sardar)” on one side and “Sardar ka Karz chukana hai, Sanman Waapas Dilana hai”, would be distributed. The caps were also distributed on Monday.
Speaking at the function, former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela asserted, “It is high time the government is changed. We need to change the government to change the worsening system.”
He went on, “Some teachers among the 50,000 teachers who launched an agitation recently came to meet me. I told them that they should change the government, which forced them to resort to an agitation. You can’t fight them and also vote for them!”
The meeting was also attended by Sardar Patel Group leader Laljibhai Patel, who asserted, “We started the Patidar agitation the first and then came Hardik Patel. What did he do? He joined the very party against whom he fought and has caused immense damage to the Patidar cause.”
The speakers, who also included former Gujarat Congress chief Siddharth Patel, senior Congress MLA Paresh Dhanani and senior leader Deepak Babaria, were unanimous that this was not going to be a Patidar agitation but a larger movement since Sardar Patel didn’t belong to a single community but the entire country. They said the larger battle is about restoring the lost glory of the Iron Man of India, whose legacy the ruling BJP is trying to hijack.
More than half a dozen legislators and scores of second-rung leaders from political parties and various community organisations.