AHMEDABAD: Patidar campaigner Hardik Patel's group has set a new deadline for the Congress to come clean on reservations for the community, a threat that is seen as an attempt to force the Congress into accepting its recommendations for party tickets for next month's elections.
Sources suggest the group had given a list of about 30 assembly seats from where it wanted its supporters to be fielded in next month's assembly election. But the Congress thinks that it is too steep a price for support from the 24-year-old Patidar leader and is trying to convince the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti to settle for lesser seats.
Four leaders of the Hardik Patel's group, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, or PAAS, were in Delhi on Friday. One of them, Dinesh Bambhania, said they had been invited to the national capital for talks with senior Congress leaders to finalise the roadmap for giving quotas to the Patidar, or Patel community.
"But we were kept waiting the entire day for the meeting at Gujarat Bhawan," PAAS convener Bambhania said.
"Now we have given a 24-hour ultimatum to the Congress. If you don't accept demand, then we will assume that you don't need support in the next election," Mr Bambhania told NDTV after returning home in Gujarat.
That deadline ends Saturday midnight.
But this isn't the first time that Hardik Patel's group has set deadlines for the Congress and then, nixed them just in time. Most of them, however, have run into a week or a few days and were designed to send a message that it was working to get the best deal for the Patels from the Congress.
The last date for filing nominations for the first phase of the assembly elections is Tuesday.
It isn't going to be an easy decision for the Congress.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has been aiming to harness the Patel anger against the BJP government to win them over. The powerful Patel community has for years been staunch supporters of the BJP that has been in power in the state for two decades.
If the Congress cedes too many seats to the Hardik Patel's nominees, it stands the risk of losing its local leaders who could switch parties while the party, even if Hardik's supporters win some seats, would continue to remain dependent on the Patidar campaigner.