AHMEDABAD: As Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel's hunger strike entered the 12th day, the Congress Wednesday endorsed his demands for farm loan waiver and accused the BJP government in Gujarat of neglecting farmers.
A war of words broke out between the BJP and the Congress following Congress in-charge for Gujarat Rajiv Satav's visit to Hardik Patel, who is on an indefinite fast since August 25 at his house near here.
Satav endorsed Hardik Patel's demand for farm loan waiver and alleged that the BJP does not care about farmers.
"BJP never talks about farmers and their issues. It only remembers them during elections and forgets them afterwards. The state government must discuss the issues raised by Hardik," he said after meeting the agitating leader.
"Since the BJP government has not taken any initiative to persuade Hardik to end his fast, we will meet the CM to discuss the issue. The government has to bow down. If it does not, we will mount pressure. We have sought time from the chief minister (Vijay Rupani) for a meeting," Satav said.
Responding to him, Gujarat Energy Minister Saurabh Patel said the Congress should first make its stand clear about Hardik's demand on reservations for the Patidar community in the OBC quota.
"Satav said many things but he did not mention how his party will give reservation to Patidars when the Supreme Court has put a cap of 50 per cent. Congress's double standard has been exposed with the party not making its stand clear," the BJP minister said.
"Congress needs to introspect what it did for farmers. No government in the past has done what the NDA government at the Centre did for farmers. In Gujarat, we have allotted a budget of Rs 30,000 crore for the farm sector," the minister said.
"The government is of the opinion that Hardik should end his fast and cooperate with doctors," he added.
Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) said it will mount pressure on the government by approaching MLAs and MPs.
"PAAS members and farmers will call on all 182 MLAs, 26 Lok Sabha members and 11 Rajya Sabha members (from the state) from tomorrow and ask them if they support Hardik's cause or not," said PAAS convener Manoj Panara.
On a meeting between leaders from six Patidar outfits and minister Saurabh Patel yesterday, Panara said Hardik Patel had not authorised this mediation.
"C K Patel, who led the delegation, is a BJP leader. He was not asked by Hardik or PAAS to mediate. C K Patel never met Hardik and took his approval for such a meeting," he said.
Following Panara's statement, C K Patel, who is associated with Vishwa Umiya Foundation, said Patidar leaders will not meet the government over the issue again.
"I think there is some misunderstanding. We do not want any rift among Patidars. So we have decided that no Patidar leader will try to mediate with the government without getting a written approval from PAAS again," he said.
A medical bulletin from the Sola Civil Hospital here said that doctors conducted a routine check-up on Hardik today and once again advised him to get admitted as his health is deteriorating.