The ultra-modern Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) stadium in Rajkot has turned into a fortress following fresh threats from the agitating Patidar community leader Hardik Patel that he and thousands of his supporters would not allow today's third ODI between India and South Africa to start.
"If we are not given entry inside the stadium, we won't allow the two teams to enter. If we are stopped from watching the match, we won't allow it to be played at any cost," thundered Hardik Patel. "I, Hardik Patel, will remain ahead of all other protesters and stop the match."
A furious Patel alleged that the SCA and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat had joined hands to ensure that Patidars, agitating for the last four months for reservation, do not get tickets. He had earlier announced that the Patidars would purchase 18,000 tickets for the ODI and "silently protest" inside the stadium, wearing similar T-shirts and caps featuring Patidar and Jai Sardar words.
According to sources in the SCA, only 1,900 tickets have been sold online and 8,000 from the sole counter in Rajkot in three days. The SCA stadium has a capacity of 29,000. Patel has categorically accused the BJP of procuring nearly 20,000 tickets in block booking in order to prevent a large presence of Patidars inside the stadium. Instead, there is a possibility of a bigger BJP presence in the stadium now.
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It is learnt that Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, accompanied by not one or two but an array of ministers, will be present during the match after the first session and grace the presentation ceremony. Patel said that a "special, convenient atmosphere" has been created for the Gujarat Chief Minister.
Besides the SCA, the government is also not taking any chance and is all ready to tackle Patel and company head on. According to Gagandeep Gambhir, the dynamic lady Superintendent of Police, there will be an unprecedented army of 5,000 police personnel and other security persons inside the stadium. There are numerous Close Circuit Cameras inside the stadium and 36 High Range Cameras outside it. Three Drone cameras will keep a vigil on the entire stadium.
Meanwhile, Rajkot district collector Manisha Chandra has issued a notification that prohibits waving of flags and banners, wearing of T-shirts and caps and other clothes featuring slogans highlighting the reservation, and shouting slogans against and in favour of the government and any community inside the stadium and within its one kilometre radius till the match ends. This seems to be far too bigger a match between Team Patel and the Gujarat government than the actual cricket contest between Team India and South Africa.