The Janata Dal (United) is likely to contest the next Gujarat Assembly elections in alliance with the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) of Hardik Patel and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The elections are expected to be held in November this year as the term of the current Assembly ends in December.
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JD (U) sources disclosed here on Wednesday that Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar is set to visit Saurashtra, a Patel stronghold, next month to address a joint rally with Hardik, which would be a precursor to their campaign.
Nitish and Hardik are already working in tandem with each other. Nitish inducted Akhilesh Katiyar, an aide of Hardik, into the JD(U) and made him a national general secretary in January on the PAAS leader’s recommendation. He placed Katiyar, who belongs to the same Kurmi community as him, in charge of the party’s Gujarat affairs.
The two have forged a social alliance of sorts on the premise that Patels in Gujarat are the same as Kurmis in the Hindi heartland. It may be a coincidence, but some Kurmis use “Patel” as a surname, MoS for Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel and her father Sone Lal Patel, the founder of Apna Dal, among them.
It suits Hardik to push this idea — since Kurmis are categorised as OBC, they also qualify for the same status. For Nitish, who is desperate to expand his reach ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it makes for a gainful proposition to try convincing Patels that he is their kin.
Hardik has made a clear choice by siding with Nitish vis-a-vis Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. It was he who mobilised crowds for Kejriwal’s rally in Surat last October.
His alienation means a major setback to Kejriwal’s plan of taking on Modi in his home state.
Kejriwal fell out with Patel three months ago after he participated in a Kisan Panchayat, organised by dissident AAP MLA Devinder Sehrawat in his constituency, Bijwasan.
Kejriwal had suspended Sehrawat from primary membership of the party after he had accused AAP leaders in Punjab of exploiting women in return for tickets.
Nitish weakened his case for being acknowledged as the non-BJP prime ministerial candidate by abstaining from the recent Assembly elections in five states.
He has to come into the poll arena before the Lok Sabha polls. Since Kejriwal is an aspirant for the same slot, they have to part company with each other, at least for now. No wonder then that Nitish has resolved to fight the Delhi municipal elections. He has deputed his confidant Sanjay Jha, the national general secretary of the JD(U), for strategising the poll plan. However, the real test would be the Gujarat polls.