NDA ally Shiv Sena on Wednesday extended support to fasting Patidar leader Hardik Patel, with party chief Uddhav Thackeray advising him "not to risk your life on insensitive governments".
Mr Patel has been on an indefinite fast since August 25 to demand loan waiver for farmers and reservation for Patels in government jobs and educational institutions. He is also demanding the release of close associate Alpesh Kathiriya jailed on sedition charge.
Mr Thackerey, in his message, extended support to Mr Patel and advised him to give up his fast, at least for now. There was no point in "risking your precious life fighting against insensitive governments at the Centre and the state", the Sena leader said.
Mr Thackeray also advised Hardik to prepare for a long-drawn battle for the farmers' cause.
Mr Hardik's supporters have announced to intensify their agitation as the state government had not begun direct talks with the fasting leader, who was visited by disgruntled BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha and former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday.
"Hardik will again stop consuming water if the state government does approach him by tomorrow (Thursday) over our demands," Manoj Panara, Convenor of the Patidar Ananmat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), told reporters.
"From Thursday, the state's farmers will call up all 182 legislators, 26 Lok Sabha members and Rajya Sabha members from Gujarat and seek their views on farm debt waiver," Panara said.
He added that the phone calls would be followed by visits to the residences and offices of these elected representatives on Friday to seek their views in writing.
"The ball is in the government's court. The state government will be responsible if anything goes wrong. However, we appeal to farmers and Patel youths to maintain peace and not go for confrontation with police," Mr Panara added.
Meanwhile, Visnagar town in north Gujarat, from where the Patel agitation started in 2015, observed a bandh in support of the fasting leader. Some of his supporters got their head tonsured in protest against the state government's alleged apathy.
Women too came out in the streets in several rural areas of the state and beat vessels with rolling pins to protest.
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