Bhopal: The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has reconsidered its decision not to allow Hardik Patel, leader of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, to address five public meetings in Madhya Pradesh beginning today (June 7 to June 11).
On Wednesday evening, the Jabalpur district administration granted permission to the Kisan Kranti Sena to host a public meeting where Hardik will be speaking. The meeting is scheduled for this evening.
“On Wednesday evening, the district administrations of Jabalpur and Satna, where bhai Hardik Patel will address public meetings today and on Friday, have given permission,” Mahendra Patidar, state chief of the Kisan Kranti Sena, told The Wire.
The Madhya Pradesh government had earlier refused to give Hardik permission to address public meetings, saying that their present concern was to peacefully handle the ten-day farmers that began on June 1.
The state has the second largest population of Patidars, after Gujarat with which it shares the boundary. Apart from enjoying business ties, Patidar family in MP and Gujarat are also often bound by marital ties. A hundred Patidar men and women have taken part in in mass marriage programmes in the state in the last few years.
In Gujarat, the community comprises around 12% of the total population and has an electoral say in 60 constituencies, mostly in the Saurashtra region and the cities of Ahmedabad and Surat. According to a rough estimate, there are nearly 70 lakh Patidar voters in the state. Of them, 40 lakh voters are said to be in the Malwa region.
In both states, Patidars have been committed voters for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for over two decades. But in the 2017 assembly elections in Gujarat, where the direct fight was between the BJP and the Congress, the BJP failed to overwrite the impact of Hardik Patel, who led community’s movement for reservations.
Though the saffron party won a sixth consecutive term, the BJP’s key vote bank opted for the Congress in several assembly segments.
In MP, the Congress party is locked in a direct face-off with the BJP, which has been in power since 2003. Currently, BJP MLAs from the Patidar community are represented in the house. The Congress has only a single representative from Patidar community in the assembly. Moreover, of the 230 assembly seats, the results in 34 seats are decided by Patidar voters. In the 2014 general elections, committed voters in the state’s Nimar belt in the Malwa region allowed BJP’s Subhash Patel to take the Khargone Lok Sabha seat.
In 2013 assembly elections, the ruling BJP had won 165 of the 230 seats. The Congress stood second with 58 seats and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party had won four.
What is surprising is that the Patidar community is dead set against the party after the Mandsaur firing, in which four of the five killed by the police were Patidars.
“Yes, a majority of our community leaders are unhappy with the way the government tackled last year farmers’ agitation. We became the target of government in the agitation,” says Mahendra Patidar, state chief of the Kisan Kranti Sena.
The state government doesn’t shy away from admitting that their present concern is to peacefully handle the ten-day farmers’ agitation that began on June 1.
“Law and order concerns are behind not giving permission to Hardik Patel. He can visit any part of Madhya Pradesh. But he can address public meetings after June 10, when the farmers’ agitation is over,” Makrand Deuskar, inspector general of police (intelligence), said here.
Hardik is expected to hold road shows and address public meetings, marking the first death anniversary of the six farmers who were killed in police firing during a protest in Mandsaur district last year. After the incident, MP police had stopped him from reaching Mandsaur, where he wanted to meet family members of those killed, and arrested him.
“I’m coming to Madhya Pradesh on the invitation of the Kisan Kranti Sena (Madhya Pradesh unit). My organisers have informed me that the administration is not giving me permission to address public meetings in Jabalpur (June 7), Satna (June 8), Indore (June 9), Mandsaur (June 10) and Ratlam (June 11) districts,” he told The Wire on the phone earlier this week. He was intending to go ahead with his programme even if the government did not grant permission.
Note: This story was updated on June 6, 2018 at 2:45 pm with the news that the state government has given Hardik Patel permission to address public gatherings.
Anup Dutta is a freelance journalist who has previously worked with Mail Today and Deccan Herald.