The Patidar reservation campaign led by Patidar leaders Hardik Patel and Akhilesh Katiyar is now increasingly looking towards Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for support to strengthen their movement, according to Katiyar.
Katiyar is also looking to get leaders like Abhay Chautala, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and others on board. Katiyar, general secretary of Patel Navanirman Sena (PNS) and Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), which are led by Hardik, told The Sunday Guardian that Nitish Kumar has given them “strong hints” of participating in the upcoming Patidar rallies as they fight for reservation and release of Hardik Patel, 23, who is in jail for alleged sedition. Hardik Patel shot to prominence last year as the leader of the Patidar community and has been in jail since October last year.
“The Bharatiya Kisan Manch will organise a mahapanchayat in Lucknow on 10 May for our cause where we will demand the release of our leader Hardik Patel and again appeal to the government to grant apt reservations for the Patidar community in the OBC category. We will take part actively and Nitish Kumarji is expected to share the stage with us. Nitishji has always shown solidarity towards our cause. We share good relations with him and his party. We expect him to come and stand with us on the stage in Lucknow. There are strong hints,” Katiyar told this newspaper.
“Hardikji is the sole leader of the campaign and we are merely executing his directions. He is running this campaign from inside jail. He has told us to strengthen the JDU as much as we can, in any way we can. He told us to support Nitishji. Hardikji told me categorically that Nitish Kumar is our biggest hope. We shall not look to either the BJP or the Congress for any help in our campaign,” Katiyar said.
On earlier speculation that Hardik Patel had received money for his campaign at the behest of some leaders in the state units of the Congress and the BJP, Katiyar said: “We have roughly 20 lakh active members of PAAS and PNS. There are lakhs of other volunteers as well. Patels don’t need money from anybody else. Every member and volunteer wilfully gives secret donations for the functioning of the organisations. It helps us organise campaign rallies and agitations.”
While accepting that neither Hardik nor his associates tried to officially reach out or communicate their demands with the government before starting their campaigns, Katiyar said: “We have repeatedly asked representatives of the government to start a dialogue with us. If lakhs of people come out on the streets demanding something from the government, is it not their responsibility to start a dialogue and talk to them? We are not terrorists.”