NEW DELHI: Elated over Hardik Patel’s support, the Congress is banking on a caste-based front including the Patels, OBCs, Dalits and tribals to take on the BJP in Gujarat.
Before Hardik, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor joined the Congress last month after a big show of strength in Ahmedabad.
Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani too met Rahul Gandhi and assured party managers to support the Congress, said sources. Over the past few weeks, Rahul interacted with tribal voters to consolidate the party’s traditional support base.
“In the 2012 Assembly polls, the gap between the Congress and the BJP was around 7-8 per cent votes. The caste combination will not only bridge this gap, but give us a significant lead,” Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki told The New Indian Express.
Patels comprise around 14 per cent of Gujarat’s voters but a section of the community has been protesting for reservation in jobs and education over the past two years. After Hardik, 23, emerged as the leader of the community, the Congress has been trying hard to enlist his support for the December assembly polls to take on the BJP, which has been in power for 22 years. The Patels are angry with the BJP as it did not meet their demand.
For the Congress, the deal came through after Hardik said he was satisfied with the Congress’ offer on quota quota and said he will support the party in the assembly polls next month. His affirmation came just days after Hardik’s supporters clashed with Gujarat Congress leaders over ticket distribution.
“We thank Hardik for backing us. A common front will certainly defeat the BJP in Gujarat,” senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who negotiated the quota issue with the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leaders, said.“We thought through the pros and cons before making an offer. We are a responsible party unlike the BJP.”
Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said Congress’ quota promise to Patels was an attempt to deceive the voters as the Supreme Court’s 50 per cent ceiling cannot be breached. “If promises are made with full knowledge that in no way can they be implemented,it only amounts to deception,” he said.