The Sunday Guardian - - Front Page - ANANDO BHAKTO NEW DELHI

The Congress has started back-chan­nel talks with both Hardik Pa­tel, the face of the Pati­dar reser­va­tion ag­i­ta­tion, and Dalit leader Jignesh Me­wani in poll bound Gu­jarat, where the grand old party may be locked in a two-way con­test with the BJP, which has been rul­ing the coastal state since 1998.

Sources told this re­porter that the Congress has been send­ing emis­saries to both Hardik and Me­wani and the re­sponses have been “sat­is­fac­tory so far”. The sources also said that the grand old party, which in July saw re­bel­lion by se­nior leader Shankersinh Vaghela and MLAs loyal to him, may set­tle for a “soft Hin­dutva” an­gle in the polls that are likely to be sched­uled for De­cem­ber.

“Talks are on with Hardik Pa­tel. Shab­nam Hashmi, who is con­sid­ered close to So­nia Gandhi, too held a meet­ing with Hardik. If all goes well, Hardik may sup­port the Congress, al­though noth­ing can be as­serted now. If he sup­ports the Congress, we will ben­e­fit hugely,” a top source in the Congress told this news­pa­per. Shab­nam Hashmi is a so­cial ac­tivist and hu­man rights cam­paigner, who was in the news in June for re­turn­ing her Na­tional Mi­nor­ity Rights Award to protest the mob lynch­ing of Ju­naid, who was stabbed to death on a train in Bal­lab­h­garh the same month.

The sources fur­ther con­firmed the Congress’ over­tures to Jignesh Me­wani, say­ing a few lead­ers are in touch with the Dalit leader to get him to sup­port the Congress and raise the pitch against cases of al­leged vio-

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