Another ‘Exit’ talk in Congress as Patidar leader Hardik Patel changes tone ahead of Gujarat polls

Sources said the young leader’s tone didn’t change all of a sudden. They claimed Hardik started showing signs of dissent after he met a senior BJP leader some time back.

Published: 15th April 2022 02:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th April 2022 08:50 AM   |  A+A-

Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel

Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

AHMEDABAD:  Political circles in Gujarat are abuzz with talks of Patidar leader and Congress state 
working president Hardik Patel leaving the party.

The trigger for the intense speculation is Hardik questioning the party leadership in the last two days. 

Sources said the young leader’s tone didn’t change all of a sudden. They claimed Hardik started showing signs of dissent after he met a senior BJP leader some time back.

The sources further said he was conducting parallel discussions with both BJP and AAP. 

It is suspected that Hardik is uncomfortable with the possibility of another Patidar leader Naresh Patel entering the Congress. The young leader fears his clout in the party will fade if Naresh joins the party. 

Amid expectations that Naresh, a tall leader of the Leua sect of Patidars, might join the Congress, Hardik on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the “style of functioning” of the party unit.

Patel also said that although he had taken up the issue of his harassment with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi many times, no action has been taken to address his grievances.

Patel had attained prominence when he spearheaded the Patidar community's campaign in Gujarat in 2015 seeking reservations under the OBC category.

However, his popularity shrank after he joined the Congress in 2019 as he had earlier promised that he would never enter politics.

Although Congress benefited due to quota agitation in the 2017 state assembly elections, the Patidar community did not support the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls or subsequent municipal or panchayat elections after Patel joined it.

"I am being harassed so much that I feel bad about it. Gujarat Congress leaders want that I should leave the party," Patel told PTI Bhasha in a telephonic interview.

"I am more pained because I have represented the situation to Rahul Gandhi many times, but no action has been taken by him against Gujarat Congress leaders," he said.

The Congress's plan to rope in chairman of the Khodaldham Temple Trust Naresh Patel, a prominent Patidar face, ahead of 2022 state polls has apparently angered Hardik, who believes that his clout as Patidar leader will be finished if Naresh Patel joins the Congress party.

"You used Hardik in 2017, you want to use Naresh bhai in 2022 and in 2027 you would use another Patidar leader. Why don't you support and strengthen Hardik?" he said.

"They should take Naresh bhai, but will they treat him like the way the way they did to me?" he asked.

Hardik said despite being a working president of the party's state unit, no work has been given to him.

"I am not called to attend important meetings or not made part of any decision making process," he claimed.

He said that it was due to his Patidar quota agitation that Congress benefited in the 2017 elections.

He also alleged that the Congress in Gujarat is a divided house and the party has not been able to gain power in the last 30 years due to infighting.

Hardik said he has no plans to leave the Congress.

On Wednesday, Hardik had expressed displeasure over the state Congress's "style of functioning", claiming that he was sidelined in the state unit and the leadership is not willing to utilise his skills.

He had expressed his grouse a day after he hinted at contesting elections after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction in a 2015 rioting and arson case.

He also questioned the party over the entry of Naresh.

“Congress benefited because of us (Patel community) in the 2017 polls. Now, as I am seeing on television, the party wants to induct Naresh Patel for the 2022 polls. I hope they do not search for a new Patel for the 2027 election. Why does the party not utilise the people they already have?” Patel said, asking the leadership to not “insult” him.

Questioning the party’s plans, Hardik said it is high time the leadership decides and announces the date of Naresh Patel’s induction into the party.

“He (Naresh) should join politics. You can’t serve society by working from one corner. If he wants to serve, then he should join politics,” Hardik said.

However, in a bid to clear the air, Hardik on Thursday said his intentions are good.

“Truth should be spoken because I want good of the party. To date, I have tried to give my best to the party and will continue to do so. I am hungry for work, not for the post,” he said.

Political analyst Dilip Patel said Hardik’s statement clearly showed he was not happy with Naresh’s entry. When he joined the Congress in 2019, many other leaders with him had also joined the party.

"Hardik himself may have become the working president of the state unit, but he has not been able to give any special place to the leaders close to him in the organisation. It is also doubtful if the leaders close to him will get ticket in the upcoming Assembly election.”

Meanwhile, former Gujarat Congress MLA Pravin Maru, who had resigned as a legislator ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls in 2020, on Thursday joined the ruling BJP at a function held at party headquarter in Gandhinagar.

After joining the BJP, Maru said if the party allows, he is willing to fight the upcoming Assembly elections, expected to be held in December this year.

Maru, a Dalit leader, won from Gadhada, a Scheduled Caste-reserved seat of Botad district, on Congress ticket in the 2017 state polls.

However, he and seven other Congress MLAs had resigned as legislators in March 2020, immediately after the announcement of Rajya Sabha polls for four seats in Gujarat.

Due to their resignation, former Union minister Bharatsinh Solanki, Congress' another candidate from the state apart from Shaktisinh Gohil, had lost the election.

Solanki would have won had eight MLAs not resigned after the announcement of the Rajya Sabha polls.

Thanks to these resignations, three instead of two BJP candidates - Abhay Bharadwaj, Ramilaben Bara and Narhari Amin - won the elections.

At that time, Maru had claimed that he was resigning because Congress leadership did not listen to the MLAs.

BJP's Atmaram Parmar, whom Maru had defeated in 2017, won the bypoll held in 2020 by defeating Congress candidate Mohan Solanki.

AIMIM planning to fight Gujarat polls 

AHMEDABAD: All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi said his party is making plans for fighting in the Gujarat Assembly polls.

The party is gathering information to understand its strengths and weaknesses, Owaisi said, claiming that the AIMIM will emerge strong in the state in the coming days.

Owaisi said he will visit Ahmedabad and other cities in Gujarat frequently to strengthen the part and fight the next polls vigorously. AIMIM had opened account in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation elections. 

Congress leaders from Saurashtra join AAP

Former Congress MLA Indranil Rajguru and party leader Vashram Sagathiya, who are considered to be big leaders of Saurashtra region, joined the AAP on Thursday.

“The BJP has acquired power by fooling people, while the Congress has lost its ability to become an alternative,” Rajguru said.

(With PTI Inputs)


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