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Hardik slapped at rally, slugfest between BJP, Congress (2nd Lead)
Ahmedabad, April 19 - Firebrand Patidar leader Hardik Patel was on Friday slapped at a public meeting in Gujarat's Surendranagar district by a man who alleged Patel was playing politics with the sentiments of the community.
Patel was addressing an election rally described as a 'Jan Aakrosh Sabha' at Baldana village when a man identified as Tarun Gajjar from Kadi town in north Gujarat climbed up the stage and slapped him. 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 later 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 hospitalized him for treatment.
The attack snowballed into a political slugfest between the BJP and the Congress with the latter blaming the ruling party for the incident and the former calling it a gimmick to gain sympathy.
The Congress dashed off a memorandum to the Election Commission demanding that Patel be immediately provided protection and his Y Category security cover which was removed "for reasons best known by the state government" be restored.
It alleged that the BJP was deliberately attempting to disrupt the election meetings of the party.
BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya, however, strongly denied it, claiming that the Patidars were disillusioned by Hardik Patel and so he was inviting public anger, for which the BJP should not be blamed.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also plunged into the matter, saying: "As stated by the assailant himself, the slap was an expression of his anger against Hardik for personal reasons and the BJP had nothing to do with it. I suspect it could be a Congress-sponsored drama to catch people's sympathy."
He said that the "peace-loving" BJP or any of its workers could never indulge in such violent activities and said that the culprit would be punished. His deputy, Nitin Patel, asserted that the Patidar leader was being paid back in his own coin by the community.
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."
Meanwhile, Gajjar told reporters from his hospital bed that he was not a Patidar and he slapped the leader because he and his family "suffered" medical emergencies because Hardik held rallies and meetings blocking traffic in his hometown in 2015.
"My wife had even suffered a miscarriage. I wanted to take revenge on Hardik for the last three years and got the opportunity today." He claimed it was his "personal decision".
Tarun's father Manu Gajjar, however, said he did not know anything about his daughter-in-law's alleged miscarriage, nor Tarun had ever said anything about his anger against Hardik at home. He also claimed that Tarun was "missing" for the last 15 days or so and did not contact his family in Kadi.
Postings on Tarun's Facebook page give ample evidence of his sympathy for the BJP. The page was full of pro-Narendra Modi, pro-BJP and anti-Congress postings. There also was not a single posting to indicate that he had any personal enmity with Hardik or his agitation.
Meanwhile, Hardik Patel's former associate in his Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) Reshma Patel, who had joined the BJP but later quit it, was attacked allegedly by three BJP workers at Vanthali in Junagadh district this morning.
Reshma Patel, a Nationalist Congress Party candidate for the Manavadar state Assembly seat where a by-poll was scheduled to be held along with Lok Sabha on April 23 was admitted in a hospital with injuries.
The by-poll was necessitated after sitting Congress legislator Jawahar Chavda quit and joined the BJP to be made a minister in the Vijay Rupani cabinet. He is contesting the election on BJP ticket.
No arrest has yet been made in this connection.
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