Ahmedabad: The Congress on Friday urged the Election Commission to immediately provide security to Patidar leader Hardik Patel, hours after he was slapped by a man who alleged Patel was playing politics with the sentiments of the community.
The incident occurred when Patel was addressing an election rally described as a ‘Jan Aakrosh Sabha’ at Baldana village in Surendranagar district in Saurashtra region.
The man, identified as Tarun Gajjar from Kadi town in North Gujarat, climbed up the stage and slapped him.
An angry Gajjar was heard saying that 14 Patidar youngsters had been killed in 2015 during Hardik Patel’s agitation for reservations to the community but now the latter was playing politics over it.
He was overpowered by Congress workers who thrashed him and took him away from the venue of the rally. Gajjar was detained by the police who also took him to a nearby hospital for first-aid treatment.
Hardik Patel, who later lodged a complaint at the Wadhvan police station, said: “This was the handiwork of the BJP and the party may someday send someone to shoot me but our fight will continue.”
State BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya denied that his party or any of its members had any role in the incident.
He said: “Hardik Patel was exposed as making personal political capital on the sentiments and aspirations of the Patidars and this is why he is inviting the anger of the people, which should not be attributed to the BJP.”
Gajjar is believed to be close to Gujarat’s Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel. IANS has a soft copy of an invite sent by Gajjar to mediapersons for a function which was to be attended by Nitin Patel in 2015.
Congress General Secretary Chetan Rawal has submitted a written representation to the Election Commission demanding that Hardik Patel be given adequate police protection.
Stating that Patel was a “star campaigner of the party” who travels across the country, the Congress sought the Commission’s direction to the state and Central governments to restore the Y Category security cover provided to Patel earlier which had been withdrawn “for reasons best known to the state government”.
The Congress letter to the Election Commission also stated that this was not the only such incident and Hardik Patel was also being threatened in different ways through social media.
The Congress urged the Commission to ask the Crime Branch police to expedite inquiry into the complaint, which was not being acted upon probably on instructions from the state actors.
Patel, who launched his agitation in 2015, joined the Congress last month and has emerged as a star campaigner for the opposition party, which has allotted him a helicopter to tour Gujarat and hold election rallies.
On Thursday, he had to cancel his helicopter ride to Lunawada in Mahisagar district in central Gujarat when farmer Vinay Patel on whose field the helicopter was to land refused permission on the same reason that Hardik Patel was “playing politics over those killed”.
Patel later travelled by road to Lunawada, some 100 km from Ahmedabad for his rally.