Prashant Dayal (MeraNews, Ahmedabad): The Visnagar district sessions court on Wednesday issued non-bailable warrants against Patidar leaders Hardik Patel and Lalji Patel for failing to appear before it in a case related to damage to government property.

The case relates to the ransacking of the office of Rushikesh Patel, a member of the state legislative assembly (MLA), following a rally in Visnagar in July 2015 that turned violent.

The court issued the warrants after Hardik Patel, convenor of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), missed one hearing and Sardar Patel Group (SPG) leader Lalji Patel did not appear for the previous three hearings.

The development comes at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat has been trying to reach out to leaders of the Patidar community, which is seeking reservation under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category, in the run-up to the December assembly elections. The community has held protests across the state since 2015.

The state government earlier this month ordered the withdrawal of a number of cases filed against members of the Patidar community. However, the charges related to sedition and causing harm to government property still stand.

Former PAAS leaders Reshma Patel and Varun Patel on Saturday joined the BJP, while a day later Narendra Patel, a convenor for the organization for north Gujarat, said the BJP offered him Rs1 crore to join, with Rs10 lakh cash up front. On Tuesday, Narendra Patel filed a complaint in the Gandhinagar chief judicial magistrate’s court against six BJP leaders, including Jitu Vaghani, the party’s state president, accusing them of bribery, cheating, betrayal and intimidation.

Later on Tuesday, Hardik Patel confirmed that he will meet Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and discuss the matter of reservation for his community with him.