Midnight drama after a day of meetings on Sunday has dealt a body blow to the much-anticipated alliance between the Congress party and Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) for the crucial Gujarat Assembly elections, with supporters from both sides clashing over the seat-sharing formula.
Barely hours after the Congress said it had reached an agreement with the Patidar community group led by Hardik – the Congress announced a list of 77 candidates including two leaders from PAAS – clashes erupted over the ticket distribution, with Patel’s supporters demanding a proper share in the seat-sharing deal.
Reports said PAAS and Congress workers clashed near the office of Praful Togadia, Congress candidate from Patel-dominated Varchcha Road seat in Surat. PAAS members ghearoed the city unit office late in the night and indulged in sloganeering against the Congress.
PAAS slammed the Congress alleging that the party had ignored the former in ticket distribution. Dharmik Malaviya, Surat PAAS convener, said they would not allow the city Congress office to operate unless PAAS got a proper share in seat sharing.
"Our community members have not been given proper representation in the list that has been declared. We will not allow any Congress office to function in the state," Malaviya told reporters.
In Ahmedabad, PAAS convenor Dinesh Bhambania, reached the house of state Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki to represent their case with his supporters.
"We will organise protest in front of every office of the Congress across the state. Bharatsinh Solanki should talk to us," he said. However, Solanki was not present at his Ahmedabad residence.
"The Congress has given tickets to two of our members without taking us into confidence. Other Patel candidates that they have selected are bogus. We will hold massive protests against Congress tomorrow," another PAAS convenor Alpesh Kathiria said.
The development follows a day of meetings between the two sides that were termed ‘cordial and positive’ and just hours before quota warrior Hardik Patel was set to announce the merger between the two sides in Rajkot.
However, a late night report said that Hardik Patel's programme at Gondal near Rajkot has been cancelled.
Earlier in the day, PAAS mebers led by Bhambania and Kahiria had met Solanki and other Congress leaders. After the meeting it was declared that they had reached a compromise formula.
Sources in the party had earlier said that the PAAS was demanding around 20 seats and negotiations were on between the PAAS and Congress on seat sharing.
Meanwhile, senior leader Shaktisinh Gohil who is MLA from Abdasa of Kutch has been fielded from Mandvi. Gohil's chance of being a chief ministerial candidate brightened after Solanki said that he would not contest polls.
Party has fielded another senior leader Arjun Modhvaida from Porbandar seat which he had lost last time in 2012.
The party has given tickets to all its sitting MLAs on the seats where names were released.
The party has fielded four former MPs in the list of 77 for the first phase of the election scheduled on December 9, showing that it gives importance to the state assembly elections. It has fielded Kunverjai Bavaliya from Jasdan seat, Soma Patel from Limbdi, Tushar Chaudhary from Mahua ST and Virji Thummer from Lathi seats.
The Congress has also given tickets to three members of minority community in the list--Suleman Patel from Vagra, Iqubal Patel from Surat (West) and Mohammed Javed Pirzadda from Vankaner.
Eleven candidates belong to the scheduled tribe (ST) category and seven are from the scheduled caste (SC) category.
Of the total 182 assembly segments in the state, 89 seats will go to poll in the first phase.
The development is also considered significant ahead of polls as the alliance could allow Congress to tap into the resentment of Patidars whipped up by PAAS against BJP. Patidars constitute 14 per cent of Gujarat population.
(With PTI inputs)