AHMEDABAD: Seeking to revive the agitation for OBC quota, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel today appealed members of the Patidar community to support him to continue the fight.
Speaking at `Patidar Nyay Mahapanchayat' at Moti Malvan in Surendranagar district of Gujarat, Patel attacked the ruling BJP for "attempting to break the agitation".
The gathering or the Mahapanchayat was meant to improve unity and cohesion within the community, he said.
Under criticism for not pressing the demand of reservations in jobs and education for the Patidar community aggressively after the last year's Assembly polls, Patel said the agitation was not limited to elections.
It will continue for years if required, until the demands are met, he said.
Over twelve MLAs of opposition Congress attended today's event, dubbed by the PAAS as "part III" of the quota agitation launched in 2015.
"They (BJP) are trying to see how the agitation breaks up. Those (from the community) who oppose our demand have taken money from the BJP. So it is our duty to keep the community together. The agitation is not Hardik's alone but of the Patidar community," he said.
"If you give me support, I am ready to fight our oppressors and even go to jail," he said.
Though the organisers had invited Patidar MLAs from both the BJP and Congress, no MLA from the ruling party turned up.
Patel said that MLAs from "Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's Congress party" came, but those from "Amit Shah's BJP" didn't.
"In any case, we would not have let BJP MLAs to join us. They were smart not to come," he said.
"We are fighting those who gained power by killing thousands of people. We are not against the government," Patel said.
He warned Congress MLAs that they will have to support the community's demands in the Assembly.
"Where are other MLAs of Congress? (Leader of Opposition) Paresh Dhanani should have come. We have sent MLAs to the Assembly because we have hopes from you. Today you (Patidar MLAs of Congress) are 16, tomorrow you will be 32. But if you do not speak about us, you will lose," he said.
Representatives from 4,000-odd Patidar-majority villages and PAAS conveners from the tehsil level were invited to the gathering, which saw around 10,000 people in attendance.
Congress MLAs Virji Thummar and Lalit Kagathra also spoke at the Mahapanchayat.