Athawale bats for Hardik, offers to talk to PM for quota (Lead)

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Ahmedabad : Union Minister and RPI leader Ramdas Athawale on Friday plumped for Patidar agitation spearhead Hardik Patel and offered to mediate between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in favour of his demand for reservations for the Patidar community.

The Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment also advocated 75 per cent reservations in the country.

Athawale, whose Republican Party of India is an ally in the NDA Government, told reporters here that "my party firmly supports the reservation demand of the Patels in Gujarat, Marathas in Maharashtra, Jats in Haryana, and Gurjars in Rajasthan".

"In the past, I have put up these demands to the central government. Once again, I will do that."

The minister said he was willing to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and mediate between him and Hardik Patel.

Athawale said, "Hardik should not drift towards Congress. If they want reservation, it will only be possible through the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. I am ready to arrange a meeting between him and Modi for that."

Asked if he would meet Hardik Patel, who is on a fast at his residence for the past six days in support of his demands, the minister said: "I have not met him so far, just shook hands once but that has no meaning. I will try to contact him and may meet him."

He said a legislation should be brought in the Parliament to increase reservations to 75 per cent to accommodate communities such as the Patidars and others.

"My party firmly believes that such communities should be given 25 per cent reservation from the remaining 50 per cent, without affecting the present quota for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes."

Athawale was in Ahmedabad to discuss reservation status for the denotified tribes, which had been certified by the British as criminal tribes and which consisted of about 10 per cent of the population.