Addressing a press conference in Delhi on Sunday, Hardik Patel said he would take his “andolan (agitation)” seeking OBC status and reservation for the Patidars across the country.
While claiming that reservations had “taken the country back 60 years”, the 22-year-old added that he was seeking the quota for Patidars as “the system today is hollow”. “On August 25, I had said that our numbers in the country amount to 27 crore, who are dispersed across states. The entire 27 crore Patel community has to be brought together, and this movement will be taken across the country, wherever there are Patels,” he said.
He claimed that “our people” were ready to give his agitation backing in Delhi. “The purpose of coming to Delhi today is that the Gujjar community, our brothers, arranged a meeting and called us. Soon, in Delhi too, our people will stand united and take the movement forward. Our movement in Gujarat will continue for one or two years, as it’s not a 100-metre race but a marathon. In the meanwhile, if we require muscle power from Delhi, they will support us, so that when necessary, we can get the highways blocked.”
Speaking on how the agitation would continue in the coming days, Hardik said, “We are thinking of arranging a maha rally in Lucknow soon. We will also call Patels from across the country to Jantar Mantar. The movement will be taken to at least 12 states. Tomorrow, a maha rally has been organised in Madhya Pradesh against the manner in which the Gujarat Police entered homes and beat up people.”
Stressing that the agitation did not have the backing of any political party, he said, “This is a non-political movement. The Congress manages to draw 2,000-3,000 people at their rally, the BJP around 10,000. There is no Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat, so there’s no point speaking of them. We manage to pull 1 lakh supporters. This shows that the question of support from any political party does not arise.”
He added, “Lakhs of Patel youth are turning out in large numbers because they actually feel the need for reservation… Sabko injection laga hua hain, dard ho raha hai (They all have been hurt, can feel the pain).” “We are simply fighting for our rights, which should be given to us. People say our community is prosperous, but only 5 or 10 per cent of the community is well off,” he said.
Commenting on the reservation system, he said, “The reservation system was put forward by political parties as an election plank. Because of this, the country has gone back 60 years. If you have to give reservation, give it to everyone.”
Asked if he was clear on whether he stood for reservation based on economic status or caste, he replied, “The poor of every community should be given reservation. Right now, our movement is limited to fighting for quota for the 85 per cent in our community who are poor.”
Hardik brushed aside questions on how the demand for reservation for Patidars would stand up before the OBC Commission or the Supreme Court, saying it was “for them to decide”. Denying that his trip to the Capital could be construed as a direct challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he joked, “Mujhe Arvind Kejriwal ke vichaar achche lagte hain, aur Modiji ke kurta pehenne ka style.”