Rahul Gandhi is on a three-day tour of the politically important Saurashtra region.
Ahmedabad: As Rahul Gandhi makes an all-out attempt to convert the anger of Gujarat's powerful Patel or Patidar voters against the ruling BJP into support for the Congress, the state government today invited Hardik Patel and other leaders of the community for talks in Gandhinagar. Hardik Patel, 24, described the meeting as cordial but said the Patel agitation would continue as their main demand for reservation in government jobs and colleges was not discussed. Several of his other key demands have however been met today.
Here are the top 10 latest developments in this story:
Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, who fronted for the government, has agreed to set up an inquiry panel to investigate complaints of police excesses during the Patel agitation. The government has also agreed to withdraw cases against young Patel activists and to give compensation for the families of those who died in police action.
The Gujarat government has also said it will set up a commission to look into welfare measures without reservation for Patels in jobs and education. Formal announcements will be made after the state cabinet approves the decisions tomorrow.
Assembly elections are due by December and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is on a three-day tour of the politically important Saurashtra region, dominated by the Patels, who have for years been loyal to the BJP. This time they are upset with the BJP government for turning down their demand for reservation.
Rahul Gandhi took a dig at the Gujarat government's handling of the Patel reservation when he said, ''BJP people fired bullets at Patidars when they raised their demands. But this is not how Congress functions, we will look at their demands with compassion.''
The Gujarat government had called for today's meeting last week as the BJP tries to limit damage after former chief minister Anandiben Patel was seen to mishandle the massive stir. While Vijay Rupani was appointed Chief Minister to steer the party into the assembly elections after Anandiben stepped down last year, Nitin Patel, who is a Patidar, was appointed Deputy Chief Minister with the specific task of pacifying the community.
Nitin Patel heads a panel of ministers to interface with the Patel leaders, who represent about a half a dozen organisations, including Hardik Patel's Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS).
Hardik Patel has earlier indicated that he may consider supporting the Congress in the Assembly elections if it promises reservation for Patidars under the quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC), if elected.
Saurashtra, the region Rahul Gandhi is touring, accounts for 58 of Gujarat's 182 assembly seats. In the last elections, the BJP had won 37 and the Congress 16 seats in the region.
The Congress began its Gujarat campaign much later than the BJP, whose chief Amit Shah has made multiple visits to the state since early this year and has set a target for his party of winning 150 of the state's 182 assembly seats. Rahul Gandhi had visited the state last month to kick off his party's campaign.