Nod to land Hardik Patel’s chopper in Gujarat’s Lunawada cancelled after ‘land owners object’

Hardik, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Gandhinagar. (File/Express photo by Javed Raja)

The Mahisagar district collector on Thursday cancelled permission for landing Congress Patidar leader Hardik Patel's chopper at a helipad in Anklava village of Lunawada taluka of Mahisagar district. Lunawada is the home turf of BJP candidate from Panchmahal Ratansinh Rathod who had won the Lunawada Assembly seat in the 2017 elections as an independent candidate.

The Collector took the decision after farmers who share ownership of the land on which the helipad is built approached the District Collector on Wednesday afternoon claiming that due permission was not taken from them before deciding whether the chopper should land there or not.

"The area that has the helipad is shared amongst four farmers from the village. Only one of the four of us were approached by the local Congress members and permission was granted based on the approval of only one farmer," Vinay Patel, 29, one of the farmers, told The Indian Express. "When we came to know about this, we resisted and approached the district collector to cancel the permission granted."

Hardik was scheduled to address a public meeting in Lunawada and campaign for Congress candidate VK Khant on Thursday evening. On April 16, permission had been granted by the district magistrate to land the chopper at the helipad.

"Permission was granted by the district administration and the police commissioner based on affirmations given by one of the owners Virendrakumar Patel. But we received a letter of objection to the permission granted, from other owners of the land where the helipad exists," Mahisagar District Collector RB Barad said. "We are not entitled to grant permission if all owners do not agree. And to avoid any untoward happenings, keeping the elections in mind, we decided to scrap the permission."

BJP Panchmahal candidate Ratansinh Rathod joined the BJP after extending support to them to form the government following his victory in the Lunawada Assembly seat in the 2017 elections as an independent candidate. Lunawada is also said to have a major Patidar voter base. Vinay, who refused to comment on whether he had an issue with his Patidar leader joining the Congress, said, "Patidar votes from my village will go to the BJP".

The Congress has blamed the BJP for intentionally creating disruptions in Hardik's campaigning. "Initially we spoke to all the owners of the land and everyone had agreed. Today morning, they cancelled the permission. The BJP is behind this and is intentionally trying to create disruptions so that Congress’ campaign is disturbed," said Lunawada Congress chief Suresh Patel.

Hardik reached the meeting venue at Indira ground in Lunawada via road following the cancellation of the permission.