'Joining BJP would have been treason against Patels'

Patidar leader Hardik Patel with Congress president Rahul Gandhi as he joins the Congress, during a public meeting in Gandhinagar on March 12, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Addressing 1,500 core members of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), its convener Hardik Patel on Sunday said, "I could have never joined the BJP, given the fact that it killed 14 youths from the (Patidar) community during the quota agitation, booked me in two sedition cases and kept me in jail for nine months. My joining the BJP would have been like treason against the community."

"I joined the Congress because of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Indira Gandhi — who divided Pakistan in two countries — and Rajiv Gandhi — who brought computers to the country," he said while speaking at an event titled "Parivar Sneh Milan: Maro Parivar Rashtra Samarpit".

"I joined the Congress because it gives me the right to come to meet you not as a party leader but as a convener of PAAS. In the BJP, I would have had to sit at the feet of (BJP president) Amit Shah to get permission," Hardik, who joined the Congress in the presence of party chief Rahul Gandhi in Gandhinagar on March 12, said.

A group of mostly youths had shouted slogans against Hardik just after he arrived for the event around 6 pm at the venue near the S G Highway in Ahmedabad.

This led to a brawl between the youths and PAAS members. Journalists covering the incident were also roughed up.

Sources said the agitators were supporters of PAAS convener Alpesh Kathiriya, who was arrested for abusing policemen in Surat last month.

Kathiriya is a co-accused in the sedition case that Hardik was charged on. A source said the youths were agitating because Kathiriya's pictures were not on the event's posters.

Hardik responded to the scuffle saying, "everyone has a right to express their opinion".

He said PAAS must continue fighting for the people, even though the Patidar quota demand has now been fulfilled. He appealed to the members there to extend their support in defeating the BJP in the upcoming elections.

"I have no ambition and will serve poor farmers, as those of us present here are the sons of farmers," he said.

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