Gujarat’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel has extended support to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rally in Surat on Sunday, 16 October, fuelling speculation that the two parties may join hands for next year’s Assembly elections in the state.

Patel, according to an AAP source, has extended his support to the rally to be addressed by the party’s convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders like Kumar Vishwas and Sanjay Singh. He said the rally is going to be historic and “we expect the presence of over one lakh people in the rally”. Kejriwal is on a four-day visit to Gujarat.

However, Hardik Patel could not be contacted for his remarks despite repeated attempts. He is in Udaipur on a six-month exile as per the bail conditions in two sedition cases.

Patel’s move came following Kejriwal seeking the support of the agitating Patidar community to “clean” Gujarat politics, at a public gathering at Mehsana. It was Piludra village in Mehsana from where the agitation started a year ago.

The AAP leader claimed that Patel handed over a letter of support to Kejriwal last night. He has requested Kejriwal to support the community’s demand for reservation and OBC status. “He has urged him to raise their issues in New Delhi. He also pointed out that a dozen Patidars were killed during the agitation last year,” said the AAP source.

Asked whether this (support) means the beginning of an electoral tie-up between AAP and Hardik Patel, the AAP source said: “This support is for the rally. However, this relationship may go further. Right now we cannot comment on how it will shape up in future.”

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, AAP leader from Surat, Rajubhai Mishra said: “We are making every attempt to make the rally a grand success. However, the corporation authorities are creating hurdles. Our posters, banners are being removed. However, we are not resisting much to ensure that there is no unnecessary controversy during the rally.”

He said Hardik Patel’s support has generated considerable enthusiasm among the local people.

Patidars have so far been loyal to the BJP for a long time.

Last year, Hardik Patel had supported the Congress in the local body elections in which the party had defeated the BJP. But now PAAS has declared that it will campaign against both the BJP and the Congress.

The AAP source claimed that Patidars were disappointed with the BJP over the OBC quota issue. “They are equally disappointed with the Congress. Hardik Patel knows that only Kejriwal can take on the BJP and, therefore, Patel joining hands with AAP is quite natural,” the source added.


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