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Patel quota stir leader Hardik Patel has put forward a set of demands before the Congress, including an assurance about reservation for the Patidars in government jobs and educational institutions, as a condition for supporting the party in the Gujarat Assembly polls.
Sources in the Congress party said Patel sought a maximum number of tickets for Patidar candidates in constituencies where the community has dominant presence.
The 24-year-old spearhead of 'Patidar Anamat Andolan', during his talks with Congress' in-charge for Gujarat Ashok Gehlot yesterday sought greater representation of politically influential Patels, who hitherto backed the BJP, in the party's organisational set up, they said.
The Patidar community leader pitched for constitutional protection to the provision of reservation for them so as to preclude a judicial review.
"Had a good meeting with Hardik Patel and his colleagues," Gehlot tweeted last night.
Patel, who is not eligible to contest either an Assembly or Lok Sabha election the minimum age for which is 25 years, also told mediapersons that he had gone to a hotel here to meet Gehlot, a former Rajasthan chief minister, and present his demands before the Congress party.
Alpesh Thakor, a prominent backward class leader and 'Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena convenor', had joined the Congress in the presence of its vice president Rahul Gandhi yesterday.
Roping in Patel's organisation may further bolster the Congress' efforts to retake Gujarat from the BJP, which has ruled the state without a break for over 22 years now.
Speculation was rife yesterday that Patel had also met Rahul Gandhi, who was present inside the hotel when he was holding talks with Gehlot.
Patel, who had denied having met Gandhi yesterday, said today he will meet the Congress leader during his next tour of the state.
TV channels aired CCTV footage from outside the 5 star hotel which showed Patel entering and leaving the hotel.
"The rooms which hv been booked in my name are being checked. We are openly saying, we have met them n will keep meeting them in future too," he said.
"Why CCTV footage was taken by IB n police from Hotel? Is the right to privacy, sole proprietorship of JayAmitShah?" Gehlot said in another tweet.
The BJP has been calling Patel an "agent" of the Congress who was trying to "mislead" people of his community.
Congress spokesman Manish Doshi said Hardik Patel was told that, if voted to power, a survey would be conducted to provide reservation to the community without touching the 49 per cent quotas for the Scheduled Castes, Schedule Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
He said Patel was also assured that action would be taken against police officials who committed "atrocities" against Patidars during their quota stir in August 2015. Doshi said an assurance was also made to him that the kin of those who were killed during the agitation will be adequately compensated.
Ten people had been killed in police action when the quota stir turned violent.